2019 New Jersey State Triathlon – Race recap

 

This July was my fifth year (attempting) racing this event. My first attempt (my first triathlon) back in 2015 was cancelled mid race and in 2017 I had to withdraw following my bike injury in the 2017 Rev3 Triathlon. So this was my third finish. The weekend is split into a sprint triathlon on Saturday and an olympic distance triathlon on the Sunday. I was entered into the olympic distance event. I’ll sum this up quickly….it was HOT but I finished!!!

The weather conditions for the event this year…all were ‘outdoor activities’

It had not done much pool or bike work since last year’s event and it did show at the beginning of this training cycle. However, I was signed up for IM70.3 Atlantic City this coming September so I was using this as part of my training on my journey into the half ironman. Having completed the Los Angeles Marathon back in March I took April easy and started my triathlon training cycle in May this year. The goal was to use a 12 week training plan into this race and roll into the half ironman training for the balance of the cycle.

Going into race week we were in the middle of a sustained heat wave in the area. I kept looking at the temperatures hoping that there would be some relief. A couple of days before the event the race director sent out the following announcement:

“IMPORTANT EVENT UPDATE

We are excited to have you compete with us at the 2019 New Jersey State Triathlon. It’s set to be a hot one this year! Due to the warmer-than-normal conditions forecast this weekend, our operations team will be implementing the following course changes in consultation with local public safety officials:

Sprint Distance – Saturday, July 20
No changes to the swim and bike portions. The run course will be approximately 2 miles. The event will begin as planned at 7:30am.

Olympic Distance – Sunday, July 21
Athletes will complete a 750m swim, one loop of the bike course (13.5-miles) and a 5k run. The race will also start at 7:30am.

We sincerely appreciate the understanding and cooperation from all of our athletes as your safety is our paramount concern. Additionally a comprehensive heat plan will be instituted above and beyond the extensive medical support we have always provided on site.

We’re here for you and the whole New Jersey State Tri team are ready to support you having your best event yet! Good luck this weekend.

Phew….Essentially they halved all the distances for the olympic triathlon.

My goal for this was to complete the distance. The weather was not going to be conducive to a hard effort and I was not in any danger of pushing anyone of a podium place. I’d use this as planned as an organized (and well catered) workout on the road to my half ironman.

On the day before the race I drove up to Lake Mercer (in Mercer County Park) to pick up my race packet. It was so hot. All the volunteers out in the sun were amazing for their dedication. Race packet was quick and easy (I had registered for the correct event this year) and I also took opportunity to register early for next year’s event. There were some iPads set up for early registration. Unfortunately they were left in the sun and were hot to touch…the one that still worked that is. I took advantage of the early discount for registering for 2020 and signed up for the olympic distance again, only to find out when I came home that we have family plans…luckily a quick email to the race director rectified my error and I was adjusted down to the sprint. Crisis averted. It was so hot I was literally dripping with sweat under the tented areas. It was dangerously hot. The New York City Triathlon was held on the same weekend and it had been cancelled completely for the safety of the athletes. We just had our distances cut back. I was good with the downgraded distance.

Attending race packet pickup – a view of the finish line for tomorrow’s race

Packet pickup was quick and easy

Transition all empty and quiet before the next day’s events

Lake Mercer – where we would be swimming tomorrow

All packed and ready to go the next morning

Arrived early with enough time to set up and try to relax

Early on Sunday morning I headed down to the race site, got to body marking and made my way into transition with enough time to set up my gear and have time to hit the bathrooms before transition closed. With my age group placing I was not due off until after 8am and the race started at 7:30am. Transition closed around 6:45 so I had plenty of time to walk around before the race. I took a Hammer Gel, some salt tabs and some water before heading out. It was still warm. The race was too warm to be wetsuit legal although that wasn’t really a factor as I’ve never used a wetsuit for this event. It’s usually too warm this time of year.

My gear is all set up

Ready to make a fun day of it

Finally my age group was called and we went across the timing mat and into the water to the sounds of ‘The Who’ blaring over the speakers. And then we were off.

I did my usual routine of watching everyone go, counting to ten and then setting of myself. The water was warm and visibility as usual was pretty much zero. I sighted pretty well but got bumped and battered a bit on the out part of the swim course. As I was on the back straight of the swim course I started to be passed by some of the faster female swimmers in the group behind but no major incidents. No one dug their fingernails into me this year!!! Once down the home straight I set my sights on the buoys marking the route to transition. Although the swim felt okay I didn’t seem to be making much progress to the swim exit but eventually I reached the swim exit and made my way to transition. Another example of my lack of training was that I pushed the stop button on my watch and not the lap button to move my GPS into transition mode. I noticed that before I jumped on the bike so I missed a couple of minutes but nothing major. My swim time was 22:09 (a 2:57/100m pace). Much room for improvement.

Transition was 6 minutes. I’m not going to move away from Injinji socks any time soon but that does take time each event trying to get the toes in the right place with damp feet 🙂 . At least this year I remembered to apply sunscreen before heading out on the bike.  I grabbed a Lara Bar on my way out of transition and downed a couple more salt tabs before making my way out into the heat. I headed out on the bike course for what would now be one loop. I felt okay going out but towards the last couple of miles my legs were getting tired. It’s a flat course so there was nothing serious in terms of effort was required. I put this down to the heat. I was drinking plenty but I’m sure I was losing more than I was drinking. At this point I was happy to be done on the bike.  Bike split was 52:25. Not my fastest. Time for the run.

Before I headed out to transition I took a couple more salt tabs, downed some more water and made my way out to the run course with my 20oz hand held water bottle. It was here with the current heat conditions that I was most grateful that the course had been cut in half. The normal 10K run starts with an out and back going left out of transition and the run for the most part is shaded as you approach the turnaround but with this heat 5K was enough for me.

The course winds around the boundary of the park and as it was close to the transition areas and finish lines there were crowds on this part of the course. Within the first mile volunteers were handing out towels soaked in ice water. Welcome relief for sure. I took a towel and squeezed as much water over my head as I could and placed it around my neck as I ran. Turning the corner I saw a trash can full of towels so naturally I thought we had to throw them away. Little did I know that there was another ice station ahead where we could re-wet the towels. Oh well, lesson learned. This part of the course is also an out and back. On the way out I could see that on the other side of the course cold showers had been set up for runners to pass through if they so wanted to cool down during the run. I’d think about it as I ran further out.

The volunteers on this side of the course were offering to throw water on our heads if we asked for it. I was stopping at each aid station for Nuun electrolyte fluid which during a 5K I would typically skip a couple of aid stations. Not today. I don’t recall seeing hoses spraying runners out on the course as in previous years but I’m writing this so long after I may be mistaken. Certainly they were very accommodating for the runners, trying to keep us cool and healthy.

After the turnaround you retrace your steps until you reach the finishing chute. I was so happy to see this and pumped to cross the finish line. Based upon the pictures below you can see I was more than relieved to be done. Run time 33:30. Let’s just put that down to the heat shall we?

Almost home

Finally!!!

Water was handed out to us as soon as we crossed the line. The race also had a mist tent beyond the finish line. Essentially a big tented area spraying cold water on participants. Let’s just say it was very well utilized. While we stood in line for the food tent, volunteers were handing out ice pops to all participants to help cool down. I grabbed my refreshments and headed back to the transition to sit for a while, catch my breath and try and cool down. Not easy.

Another finish line is always a reason to smile

As I was sitting in the transition area with the remaining participants who were still there we heard a ‘pop’ and someone pointed out that because of the heat, tire tubes were beginning to over heat and explode. Yes, it was that hot.  I took my time to pack up and then made my way back out to my car where, once my bike was racked and my gear stowed, I sat in the car with the air conditioning blasting on me for about 10 minutes before I attempted to leave for home.

All packed up and ready to head home

CGI Racing put on a great event every year and their focus on runner safety is respectable. I’m a fan of their races and as already pointed out, I’ll be back again in 2020.

2019 Broad Street Run – Race recap

This May I ran the 2019 Broad Street Swim Run. It’s 40th year. My third and the the first time since 2012 (pre this blog).

I had gained entry for this race without the need to go through the Broad Street Run lottery process as I had signed up for the Philadelphia Marathon. As the race organizers are now in charge of both races, if you register for the Marathon (or the Half) you are allotted a place in the race if you register before the lottery. I don’t think I would have entered if this had not been the case. This is the biggest race in Philadelphia and is very much an achievable distance for many people who do not want to run a half or a full marathon. With over 40,000 runners filling into a very narrow street it tends to get crowded. Very quickly.

The weekend forecast called for rain. Not just rain, but lots of rain. In fact, the local TV weather man was on TV showing people how to duct tape their shoes to keep their feet dry during the race. 😦  Hmmm….and I was already looking forward to this weekend so much!!!

I wasn’t able to get to the expo due to a family commitment and a friend who was also running grabbed my race packet and bib for me so I had to do nothing more than show up on the Sunday morning of the race and get to the starting line. With 40,000 people picking up bibs the expo would be jammed. The last time I ran this we were in line wrapped around the building waiting to go in. As this was the 40th anniversary of the race, the race shirt was a nice tech material. Typically they give out a cotton shirt and you have to pay a fee if you want a tech shirt. Surprising for a race of this size. A nice surprise was that my race corral was further up front than I had been placed in prior years so I would be off earlier. I used my 2017 Bucks County 10 Miler as my proof of time (1:22). That was my 10 mile PR so that helped propel me forward.

Having run a marathon in the rain and having done long training runs in the rain I wasn’t planning to duct tape my shoes but I would use my usual rain guard of putting vaseline generously over my feet and between my shoes. At worst I would have ruined a pair of socks but at best I would have blister protection for the run. I packed a poncho to wear before the race to keep me dry and I packed second poncho for after the race in my race belt. I was ready for the weather.

The race is a point to point race. You park at the sports complex nearby the finish line (which is about a quarter mile away at the Philadelphia Navy Yard) and take the subway up to the start line in Olney 10 miles away. The ride is free for runners wearing their bib in the morning.

It’s pretty much a straight run and mostly down hill

When I arrived at the sports stadium in the morning the rain and wind was pretty hard and steady. I wasn’t late but there were no parking spaces close to the subway entrance so I would have to stay as dry as possible just getting to the start line. I still had to make the journey to the start so I donned the first of my ponchos and headed to the subway station. People were out to make a buck and were selling rain ponchos in the parking lot for $5 a piece. I saw a few people shelling out money. I was happy with my $1 poncho from CVS (that I had a stash of for emergencies like this).

Arriving with plenty of supplies

Ready to make the dash to the subway station

I got to the subway a little damp and climbed aboard the first train that pulled in. It was just before 7am. It was an Express train to the start line. It was jam packed and already steamy with damp runners. Standing room only and then they added more people. The race start was 8am. I had about an hour to get to the start line and I was on the Express train. I figured I was going to make good time. Well, if this was an Express train I would hate to see how slow the Local train went. As I was getting out the subway I heard the National Anthem and I was still behind the back of the last corral. I made a hurried dash up front to my corral through the hoards of people without any opportunity to find a bathroom pre-race. Eek!!!

The rain was already steady and pooling on the sides of the road. It was going to be steady for most of the morning. We had to suck it up. My friend who had grabbed my race packet had bailed. I’m sure they were not the only one. So as my corral moved forward towards the start line I wished those around me good luck, ripped off the poncho and waited to get going.

It’s not a steep downhill but its a net downhill with a fast start. With such large groups of runners the first mile or two you are dodging in and out trying to find position relative to your pace.  People who arrived late and were coming in from another subway station were jumping into earlier corrals which jammed things up a bit. Also…it was not the warmest day so this added to the overall fun LOL!!! By about mile 2 I needed to find a restroom but none were to be seen…I had to leave the course for a couple of minutes to get myself sorted out. Once back I joined the throng of runners and headed down towards Center City Philadelphia.

Between mile 5 and 6 (running by Temple University and City Hall) the rain really started to come down heavier. As you round City Hall the 6 lanes of runners compact into 3 lanes until reaching the other side. The sides of the road were beginning to pool heavily with rain water so if you took an inside line or were positioned on the left you pretty much were running through water until it opened up further down Broad Street. I’m glad I was very liberal with the use of vaseline on my feet. I was stuck on the inside 😦

Once you get past City Hall you are over halfway. Only another 4 miles to go. Broad Street always has great crowds and even in this weather people were out in force to cheer on the runners. That really helped as conditions were not the most fun. I was keeping a fairly consistent pace running between 8:30 and 8:45 minute miles through mile 8. However, I began to slow to 9 minute miles as we approached the last stretch.

As you enter the Navy Yard there is a sign overhead letting you know that you have another quarter mile to go. I dug in hoping to get under 1:30 hours and put in a sub 9 minute mile. I clocked 1:30:09. Oh well. Given the weather conditions and my physical conditioning (I’m a long way from my PR shape) I was happy with my time.

Finally finished but not quite out of the rain yet

Once through the finish line I grabbed my medal and my food bag and immediately pulled on the fresh poncho that I had been carrying with me through the race. BEST DECISION EVER. I saw everyone around me start to shiver as they cooled down after the race. It was windy and rainy and I was already wet but the poncho stopped me feeling any worse. It was too wet to start eating my food or taking any pictures (okay…I took a picture) but my focus was on getting back to my car, turning on the heat and getting out of my wet clothes. It was just under a half mile back to the sports stadium and I probably got my feet more wet than during the race as I walked back to the car. I had managed to miss any severe puddling during the run, not so lucky on my walk back.

Once dry(ish) in the car and in some dry clothes I sat back, enjoyed my post race refreshments and warmed up with my car heater on for a few minutes before heading home for a hot shower. Glad it was over. Glad I ran well. I am signed up for the Philadelphia Marathon in 2019 and probably will sign up again in 2020 but I may skip the free entry for Broad Street Run next go around.

Even my medal needed a towel to dry off

Rutgers UNITE Half Marathon – Race recap

Admittedly I am falling behind on updating my blog. With a few big events coming up in the next few weeks I have to catch up so expect a few back to back posts over the next few days.

Back in April I ran my third Rutgers UNITE Half Marathon. I have not run this race since 2016 and as the last time I ran this I earned my half marathon PR this is one of my favorites. I had a quick time in both 2015 and 2016. Admittedly I am nowhere near the shape I was in in 2016 (I’ve been a little out of sorts physically since my accident in the 2017 Rev3 Williamsburg Half Ironman…okay, I’ve added a few pounds) but I was looking to a fairly decent time considering the course.

This race is put on by CGI Racing which is one of my favorite race organizers. Responsible for ‘The LOVE Run‘ and the ‘New Jersey State Triathlon‘ which are always well organized. Unlike the last time I ran, they were not offering race day packet pickup which meant I had to do the trek up and back to New Brunswick twice that weekend. It’s about an hour each way from where I live so not the end of the world. At least this year it did not fall on an alumni weekend and I was able to get quickly in and out of the expo.

The Expo as usual was contained in the campus sports center and it was easy to navigate in and out. Packet pickup was fairly easy and as it was small I wasn’t there too long and was able to get back home reasonably quick.

The Expo was held on campus in the sports center

A small expo but not crowded

Packet pickup was easy and the volunteers were helpful and attentive

This photo shows nothing more than I really needed a haircut!!!

Yup…still need a haircut!

Early the next day I woke up and headed out in the dark for what would be an early start to the day. The race was due to start at 8am but unlike in the prior years where I parked at the starting area and had to get a shuttle bus back from the finish line, this year I decided to park at the finish and shuttle over to the start. Knowing from prior years that it was usually cool in the morning and could warm up later, I dressed to run warm but made sure I had a few layers on prior to the race start.

When I arrived at the finish line I was early enough to get a parking space really close to the finish area and waited until I saw some other runners up and around the area to follow. The race guide suggested you could walk to the starting area and I started to follow a few runners but I realized that I needed some personal time (i.e. a bathroom stop) so headed over the to the shuttle buses that would take us over to the starting area. Needless to say, I’m glad I didn’t walk as it was quite a ride over there. Of course we couldn’t take too many short cuts with the bus but it was still a good ride that I’m glad I was not on my feet for too long before the race.

Arrived early and got a good parking spot near the finish area

I decided to take the shuttle buses to the starting area

It was a very foggy morning and I new it would be a humid run. It wasn’t too cold at the start so I checked my bag early and just hung around waiting for the start. As you can see from the pictures below, the visibility wasn’t great…but I wasn’t going to be leading the race so as long as I could see the guy in front of me I was good. A few people liked my InknBurn shirt and joked that there was no way anyone could lose me in the fog.

Entering the starting area

The fog was quite dense in the area.

You are not going to lose me in this outfit

…not to mention my shortish shorts

Ready to get moving

As the National Anthem was playing I was already in the starting corral. Having run 1:51(wish) last time I was here and although I knew I was not in the best shape I still thought I could hang with the 1:45 guys and settled myself near the 1:45 pacers waiting for the word to go. With little delay we were off.

I did a fairly good job of hanging with the pace group over the first few miles running near their pace and staying within ear shot of the pace runners as they chatted amongst themselves. As we ran through the more modern side of the campus I heard them saying they were actually running ahead of pace…as confirmed by all of us struggling to keep up with them. It was around mile 6 or 7 that a few of us commented that it was getting warmer and we seemed to be lacking aid stations in this part of the course. Nevertheless I hung on the heels of the pacers until around mile 8 when, as I was beginning to heat up, I decided that it was better to enjoy the run than to fight to maintain the pace.

The humidity was already beginning to take it’s toll on me and my heart rate was elevated so I decided to slow down and let the pace group go ahead of me. My pace dropped from 8:45 pace per mile to around 9:30 as I tried (unsuccessfully) to lower my heart rate which was now pretty much stuck in zone 5. I dropped to a run/walk for the back side of the course from mile 8 to the finish line. It was the right decision for the day.

As we crossed over from bridge high above Route 18 a fellow runner recognized me as the ‘Philly2Goofy’ guy and this cheered me as we entered the park for the long out and back. Although we drop in elevation on this half of the course it generally feels like it’s uphill for the remainder of the run up until the crest of the hill leading to the finish line.

Was I glad to see that hill, knowing that in less than half a mile we would be at the finish line. I honestly struggled on the back half. I could not get my heart rate down. I put this down to the more than a few extra pounds I had gained since running the New York City Marathon in the previous fall. It hadn’t been my best winter for maintenance. I certainly saw the results of that today as I crossed the line in just over 2:05. This was 14 minutes slower than my 2016 race or over 1 minute per mile slower over the course. Wow.

However, a finish line is a finish line and it’s always a good thing to get over it standing upright. Not my best performance by any means but far from my worst. I still like this race and would recommend it to anyone looking for a nice spring half marathon. If the weather is good it can be a fast course. Still one of my favorites.

It’s always good to cross a finish line

My 3rd Rutgers UNITE Half Marathon in the books

Post race area for the athletes

Great organization as usual

A great tasting pretzel. Earned!!!

Short shorts but a good backdrop on the old side of the campus

The finish line area is great as you are on the main campus and so there is plenty of space to sit on the grass and catch ones breath. The post race area was, as usual well, set up by the volunteers and after a soft pretzel and a cold bottle of water it was back to the comfort of my car and the journey home. Another Rutgers half in the books.

 

2019 Los Angeles Marathon – Race recap

In late March my wife and I traveled to California to take part in this year’s Los Angeles Marathon. I’ll say it now…it was a great experience and I highly recommend it.

In looking for a spring marathon together we had originally set our sights on running Rock ‘n’ Roll New Orleans. We had some logistical issues (no babysitter for a long weekend) so we searched around a little more. I still had some airline miles from my previous job that were going unused, so we threw caution to the wind and figured that we’d go big or go home. LA was the chosen destination and it proved to be a great choice.

So, if you know anything about us we don’t just go to run. We sightsee. A lot. My wife is an event planner by profession and as soon as the registration for the race had been processed then the planning spreadsheet was created. I should note that this blog may turn out to be more a whirlwind tour of Los Angeles with a little run thrown in the middle versus a race recap LOL. What do they say about keeping off your feet before a marathon? We seem to ignore that and go by the rule ‘No sleep until Philly’ whenever we go on a road trip. As this was going to be a special trip for us I invested in a refurbished GoPro for the trip. Lot’s of experimenting including running in my local park to see how I could manage this on race day. I think the local wildlife must think I’m really weird.

Training for a spring marathon means training through East Coast winters. Although this was not a terrible winter (save for a really cold snap) we didn’t have too much snow compared to prior years but it was just the cold that was bone chilling. Hence, most of the training took part indoors on the treadmill. Knowing that we would be running soon in sunshine with palm trees framing our streets this was motivation for pushing through those endless hours running and not getting anywhere. I think I made it outside for long runs about 50% of the time but I did log at least one 20 miler inside on the treadmill. Plus side is that I got to catch up on a lot of Netflix shows.

We headed to LA on the Thursday before the race. We had an early morning flight but with the time change we arrived early afternoon. We stayed in Culver City which was fairly close to the airport so the drive was short. We picked Culver City as the race finished in Santa Monica about 10 minutes away and being a point to point race the buses left from there to the start on race morning. It was close enough and just being a few minutes away from Santa Monica itself was cost effective. We dropped our bags and headed straight to Santa Monica and some warm sunshine. We scoped out the area a bit and rented bikes to travel along the beach towns towards our destination for the evening in Abbot Kinney.

Arriving at LAX – on the look out for celebrities (after we found our bags)
First stop – Santa Monica Pier
First stop – Santa Monica Pier
Ocean Park, Santa Monica
We rented bikes and explored the neighborhoods
Biking along the beach
Stopping to flex at Muscle Beach – no one around was impressed

Friday was race expo day and we got up early to head to downtown LA to pick up all race bibs and gear for the weekend. We got up early because we had heard many times over that driving in LA was really bad. That’s all everyone seems to go on about when talking about LA. However, I must have been lucky the whole visit as we never seemed to have any traffic issues the time we were there and we drove around a lot….again, the event planner with us.

The expo was at the Convention Center just behind the Staples Center and we had fun walking around before we actually got into the expo. Once inside everything was clearly marked and identifiable. As we walked in we bumped into Rudy Novotny the race announcer. I know Rudy from meeting him at runDisney events in the past. He gave a shout out to ‘Team Shenanigans’. Good times.

Exploring the home of the LA Lakers
Exploring the home of the LA Lakers
Exploring the home of the LA Lakers
The Expo was held at the Los Angeles Convention Center in downtown Los Angeles
Clearly they knew we were coming
Rudy giving a quick shout out to Team Shenanigans
Bib pick-up was easy and efficient
Bib pick-up was easy and efficient

The marathon sponsor this year was Skechers and the merchandise area was full of cool looking and very reasonably priced gear, definitely not New York City Marathon pricing for sure. I ended up buying a fun shirt representing the course and my wife bought a fun hat. She had more luck at the Lululemon pop up store outside of the official merchandise area. Doesn’t she always seem to have ‘luck’ at Lululemon??? The expo was not huge for a race this size and we went through fairly quickly. A lot of sponsors for local races which wasn’t going to be of much interest to us visiting for the long weekend. I did bump into my friend Michael who was using this marathon as a stop on his way to his 50 States goal. I also took the opportunity to treat myself to the Normatec vendor’s offer of a free leg treatment. Very relaxing.

Let the Expo madness begin
Heading into the official merchandise area
The merchandise section was busy with lots of options at reasonable prices (for a big race)
Heading out to the Expo floor
Our names are on the wall so we have to run now
Picking her goal destination for the race
Leaving our mark on the runners wall
Leaving our mark on the runners wall
Getting some pre-marathon leg ‘recovery’ time
Always nice to see a friendly face at any race – here with Michael on his road to 50 States
Oh yes – it’s on!!!
Last photo op of the day

After the expo we took a trip up to the Griffith Park Observatory for the afternoon after a stop at the steps famously used by Laurel and Hardy in the short film ‘The Music Box’. I had seen this movie many times over the years and had planned to make this a stop on our trip as I noted it was near the Convention Center. That’s a lot of stairs before a marathon. Mind you, the hike up to the Griffith Observatory isn’t less of a work out either. The views at the top were worth it. From there we took a drive to Beverly Hills and Rodeo Drive. We would be running through these streets on Sunday so we took the time today to enjoy them at a more relaxed pace before grabbing dinner and a reasonably early night. We had accomplished a lot and we still had a day to go before the marathon.

I had been wanting to visit these steps on our trip and glad they were close by and accessible
I had been wanting to visit these steps on our trip and glad they were close by and accessible
I had been wanting to visit these steps on our trip and glad they were close by and accessible
The Hollywood sign as seen from the Griffith Observatory
The Griffith Observatory
The sights at the Griffith Observatory
The sights at the Griffith Observatory
Visiting Beverly Hills
Blocking traffic on Rodeo Drive – drivers were not impressed by our shenanigans
You can look…but don’t touch!!!

Saturday morning was the day before the marathon…surely we would stay off our feet today? Nope. We came all this way for this race so we had to pack in as much as we could. We started the day with a ‘hike’ to the top of Runyon Canyon. The views of the Hollywood Hills were spectacular but the sign warning of us to be on the look out for rattle snakes was just a tad disconcerting. Following an insanely crazy breakfast at ‘The Griddle Café’ in Hollywood we spent the afternoon exploring up and down Hollywood Boulevard. Again, we would be running this the next day but I was on the hunt to find some of my favorite stars on the Hollywood ‘Walk of Fame’ as well as the hands and feet in cement at the ‘Chinese Theater’. We also took a tour of the Warner Brothers Studio where my wife and I reenacted scenes from some of our favorite shows on the actual sets…and were given ‘that look’ from the tour guide. Hey, we were having fun. After a nice pre-race pasta dinner at a fancier than I was expecting restaurant (I was fully prepared to be turned away based upon what I was wearing) we headed home for our early (and I mean early) wake up for our 4:30am bus from Santa Monica the next day.

Resting our legs before the marathon…
Ummm….
Time for some serious carb loading before the race tomorrow
Time for some serious carb loading before the race tomorrow
Time for some serious carb loading before the race tomorrow
Time for some serious carb loading before the race tomorrow
Time for some serious carb loading before the race tomorrow
Such tourists
The hands and feet of the original Star Trek cast
Look really closely and see if you can spot it – Mel’s a funny guy
Some of my favorites
Some of my favorites
Some of my favorites
Some of my favorites
Some of my favorites
Some of my favorites
Some of my favorites
A great tour – highly recommended
A great tour – highly recommended
Recreating the scene with Ross and Rachel at the Geller’s house
My wife tells me this has something to do with Full or Fuller House (not my thing)
Geeks
…and the Academy Award goes to…
Flat Ian ready for race day

Race day

Waking up at near Disney race times is not always fun but we had a great tour of Los Angeles and it’s surrounding neighborhoods planned for the day. I had pre-reserved parking in one of the lots closest to the finish line and we headed out around 4am for the short drive to the buses. The drive was short but the lines to get into the parking was longer than we expected. Nevertheless we were soon parked and on route to the buses. It was quick and easy and the drive from Santa Monica to the starting area at LA’s Dodgers stadium took about 20-25 minutes.

OMG it’s early time
Traveling to Pasadena early on Sunday morning

We got there with plenty of time to spare. It was dark so we just followed everyone else into the stadium where all the bathrooms were open on the concourse. These were much better than waiting outside for port-a-potties. Plus we got to sit in the stadium and relax for a while before having to head out to the corrals.

Arriving early at Dodgers Stadium
Arriving early at Dodgers Stadium

Go time for the race was 7am and so we headed out to the corrals while it was still dark. We missed where to enter into the starting chute and ended up with a whole crowd of people at the barrier at the side of our predicted race pace. It was a bit of a mess trying to get in. People were shoving here and there. We had asked a couple of volunteers early where we needed to be and they didn’t have much of an idea. Anyway we made it into the corrals (with the mob) and set about heading to the starting line and out of Dodgers Stadium. The race announcers mentioned the number of runners participating in the ‘Students Run LA’ program who were running in the marathon today. About 3,000 students would be running their first marathon on the day. They were clearly identifiable in their bright yellow shirts. More on this later.

The craziness of getting into the corrals
The sea of Students Run LA

The LA Marathon is advertised as the ‘From the stadium to the sea’. The course starts in Pasadena at Dodgers Stadium and the course takes you through the streets of Los Angeles and its surrounding neighborhoods to finish along the Pacific Coast at Santa Monica Pier. It is a grand tour with some fantastic sites. The following list of mile markers is from the official LA Marathon website.

  • Starting Line
  • Mile 1 – Dodger Stadium
  • Mile 2 – Cesar Chavez Blvd
  • Mile 3 – Downtown LA
  • Mile 4 – Disney Concert Hall
  • Mile 5 – Downtown LA
  • Mile 6 – Echo Park
  • Mile 7 – Silverlake
  • Mile 8 – Los Feliz
  • Mile 9 – Thai Town
  • Mile 10 – Hollywood Walk of Fame
  • Mile 11 – Grauman’s Chinese Theater
  • Mile 12 – Hollywood
  • Mile 13 – Sunset Strip
  • Mile 14 – West Hollywood
  • Mile 15 – West Hollywood
  • Mile 16 – Doheny Drive
  • Mile 17 – Rodeo Drive
  • Mile 18 – Santa Monica Blvd
  • Mile 19 – Westwood
  • Mile 20 – Westwood/Sepulveda Blvd
  • Mile 21 – VA/Wilshire Blvd
  • Mile 22 – San Vicente & Bundy
  • Mile 23 – San Vicente & 26th
  • Mile 24 – San Vicente & 14th
  • Mile 25 – Ocean Ave/Palisades Park
  • Mile 26 – Santa Monica
  • Finish Line
The LA Marathon Course

As you can imagine, we were excited by the prospect of some fantastic opportunities to see this city on foot and we weren’t to be disappointed. Conditions on the day were amazing. Clear blue skies and streets lined with palm trees. Just like the brochure 😉

I’m not going to go into detailed description of the course but I will share some of the highlights of the day. At the end of this post I will attach a link to my video (from the GoPro) of our day out on the marathon course. As for the course, in summary, it was great. Lots of eye candy. Plenty of photo opportunities and more hills than I imagined (hey…’Hollywood Hills’, ‘Beverly Hills’…how did I not see that coming). I wouldn’t say this was a course if you are looking for a fast time unless you were going to be near the front. This was the Olympic Trials course for 2016 so it could be considered fast but it was quiet congested mid-pack as there were a lot (or so it seemed) of first time marathoners out there. Going back to what I was saying about the 3,000 Students Run LA participants, you have at least that many first timers and it just made it that much more congested. Don’t get me wrong, these kids were amazing. Running a marathon at that age is such a great achievement but there were many ‘packs’ of runners along the course.

Chinatown
Quite a fun sign to see while running
Outside Grauman’s Chinese Theater
The Comedy Store
The Whisky-a-Go-Go
The Troubadour
Running down Route 66
Palm trees framing the road
My wife loving her time in Beverly Hills
My wife loving her time in Beverly Hills – check out her shirt
The official photographer captured some fun photos
The official photographer captured some fun photos

We did have a great time and there were many highlights. Around mile 7 we had our first personal cheer leader of the day. I had met Phillip through my connection with Autism Speaks many years ago. He has since moved on to work with the Arthritis Foundation but as an LA local he came out to support us and even made a sign for us. That was a great boost early in the race. Around mile 20 when things start to get rough during a marathon a cousin, Paul, who loves out in the LA area came out to support us. He was there to cheer on his fellow gym team (Paul competes in stair climbing challenges). He ran along side us for a little while and gave us another much-needed boost. We would get back together with him for brunch the next day. Finally, as we entered Brentwood in the last few miles of the race, Kristen who is another LA local and a member of Team Shenanigans had a cheering section out on the course. So much fun to meet her and to see that she had chalked our name on the ground in anticipation of our arrival. That was awesome to come all this way and have people we knew come out to cheer for us really made the day.

Phillip cheering us on
Cousin Paul at just the right time
Kristen leading a cheer section
Kristen leading a cheer section

There was so much to see out on this course and the crowd support and the neighborhood support was amazing. There weren’t many quiet stretches along the course. It was crowded but it never really felt quiet. So many people out there. It helps when there is great weather to begin with.

Towards the end of the race it was heating up. The sun was shining and there was not much shade. Neither of us struggled with this but judging from our time we were not pushing it. Not our slowest time as we still seem to take more time out on the course during the Walt Disney World Marathon but an equal number of unique photo stops for sure.

As we headed up Santa Monica Boulevard towards the pier at the end of the race I can truly say that we enjoyed our time out on the course. It was not a matter of wishing the finish line were closer. It was great out there. A wonderful medal and a memorable experience.

Such a fun experience and a great medal
Such a fun experience and a great medal
Such a fun experience and a great medal
Such a fun experience and a great medal
Such a fun experience and a great medal

It was however a longer than anticipated walk back to the parking lot where we had arrived several hours earlier. We stopped at a Starbucks on our way to the car for a quick refreshment and some much-needed air conditioning before returning to our hotel for a quick shower and more sightseeing. We spent the afternoon driving up the Pacific Coast Highway to Malibu where we had a celebratory dinner by the beach. Cannot beat that for a post marathon celebration.

Relaxing in Malibu after a rewarding day
Relaxing in Malibu after a rewarding day

The next day we had a late night flight so we had a relaxing morning. My wife had thought ahead and booked us massages for after the race. I usually like a deep tissue massage but I was discouraged of this notion by the masseuse for the day after a marathon. She was probably right. We then met up again with cousin Paul and his wife Evelyn for a nice long brunch before taking our sweet time of driving back to spend the rest of the day walking along the beach in Santa Monica before heading off to the airport for the red eye back to Philadelphia…where we could finally get that sleep we needed.

Making the most of our last few hours on the West Coast
Making the most of our last few hours on the West Coast

Here is the link to the video I made of the race. It was my first attempt at making a recap video so you may have to cut me some slack. Hope you enjoy it.

Thank you for reading.

2018 Philadelphia Marathon – race recap

23172423_1840131766001873_4111488096079791523_n

Let’s pretend I own a time machine and I can take you back to last November (which is a sneaky way of saying I am late posting this recap). Okay, now that you have suspended disbelief for a while I will take you back to late fall where my wife and I ran the 2018 Philadelphia Marathon together. I like to do this race every year as (1) it was my very first marathon and will always be special and (2) it is essentially my local marathon, I can drive there in the morning and be home by noon(ish). I have run this every year since I started ‘marathoning’ and only missed one year (2014) as we were on vacation for Thanksgiving. This would be my 8th Philadelphia Marathon and only the second time that I have run this together with my wife. We last ran this together in 2013.

In addition to running with my Wife again this year a new challenge for me was that this was only two weeks after running the 2018 New York City Marathon which is the shortest time I have ever had between marathons. I was a little nervous and hoping I would be able to manage the distance and support my wife the whole way. Although a little apprehensive going in, I’m always excited when this race comes around. I have many good memories from this race.

Before the race was the expo. This year was located as usual at the Philadelphia Convention Center. I made the trek to the expo the day before the race to pick up our race packets and to also pick up our pre-ordered merchandise. This year was an anniversary year, the 25th anniversary of this version of the marathon, and I was hoping that they would be making extra effort for all the runners. In 2013 when my wife and I ran together it was the 20th anniversary race and they awarded us with a special gold (colored) version of the race medal.

IMG_4056

Arriving at the expo

IMG_4060

Arriving at the expo

IMG_4059

Arriving at the expo

As I picked up my bib, one of the volunteers noted my New York City Marathon race shirt and said something to the effect that they didn’t know if they would be able to run two marathons so close together…at this point, neither did I. It would make for an interesting weekend.

I headed in to get our bibs and as this was the first year of the new ‘Philadelphia Challenge’ I headed to grab the special fleece that my wife earned for running the ‘Broad Street Run‘ back in May and the Philadelphia Marathon this weekend. I picked up a fleece that showed 36.2 miles for the Philadelphia Challenge.

The merchandise area was set up as it had been for the last couple of years. I took a quick look knowing that I had already spent my race weekend budget on pre-orders. I saw a couple of jackets similar to the one I had pre-ordered but in different colors and slightly different logos. As I tried them on I suddenly realized that the sizing seemed a little off from what I was expecting. The size large that I had ordered (while trying these jackets on) was huge. I would be swimming in the jacket. I looked around in vain to see if there were other sizes of the jacket I ordered but no 😦 . I told a member of the event staff my pre-order details and also asked if there were any medium jackets back behind the merchandise and not on display. They came back with my order and said there were no other sizes. As this was the Saturday before the race they were pretty much sold out. I checked the bag to make sure I got what I ordered and lo and behold, I had ordered a large jacket but there was a medium in the bag!!! Wow! It fit great. Day made 🙂 .

IMG_4071IMG_4076IMG_4078IMG_4080

After passing through the merchandise section I headed out into the main hall. As I mentioned earlier this was an anniversary race and so they had on display all the t-shirts, bibs and medals from each respective year through 2017. These were pretty cool to see.

IMG_4085IMG_4083IMG_4086IMG_4092IMG_4087IMG_4090IMG_4089

 

IMG_4091

My first marathon finisher medal – 2011

IMG_4095

I headed through the exhibitor section of the expo. Having been to many of these I was used to seeing a number of the vendors and didn’t spend too much time. I did make one purchase of racedots to try out for the weekend. FYI, the magnets are really strong and (spoiler alert) they worked well for the race. I did see a funny t-shirt for any spectator that made me chuckle.

IMG_4093

I also stopped by the CGI Racing booth to ‘spin the wheel’ and win a prize. My wife had asked me to stop by and see if I could pick up a coupon for a race discount for ‘The Love Run‘ in March as she wanted to run again in 2019. I did one better…I spun the wheel and won her a 50% discount for the race. I picked up a discount coupon for the ‘Rutgers UNITE Half Marathon‘ in April which I planned to run and hadn’t run since 2016.

IMG_4094

After the expo I headed home to get ready for the race and set out my gear before an early dinner and an early night. I was going with the understated look this year as you can see.

IMG_4099

Race day arrived and after an early morning wake up and drive to the City we were primed and ready for the race. The temperature for the day looked great for running, a little cool to start but in the mid 50s for the most part of the day while we would be running.

IMG_4101

Arriving at the race

We were soon in the starting corral and ready to go. A chilly start but we hoped it would feel comfortable soon as we set out running.

IMG_4105IMG_4240

IMG_4241

I got many cheers of ‘Go Brexit’ which was not what I was going for. My wife thought it was funny though.

We started out running an even pace in the mid-9’s for the first few miles. The pace was agreeable and we took in the clear morning and crowd support. All was going well. We had headed down through Center City to Columbus Boulevard and then through Queen’s Village and South Street and then back up Chestnut Street.

As we headed up past 30th Street Station and onwards towards the Drexel University campus (around mile 8) my wife took a fall. Completely face planted. Her first fear was that she was going to be trampled by the runners behind her but myself and another runner were quick to pick her up and I made sure she was okay. I think she was a little stunned for a moment so we walked a little to make sure she felt okay and was calm. She had fallen on her knee but nothing of major consequence that we noted at the time. Later after the race there was a little grazing to the knee but no major injury, just a little shaken up.

The fall had stopped our momentum a little (and understandably so). We took it easy as we set off again hoping that there were no ill effects. After the Drexel Campus there are the two biggest hills on the course. The one leading up to the Philadelphia Zoo and then the one leading up to Memorial Hall. These are the only two significant hills you have on the course. Our pace dropped as we hit these hills but we were still in the low 10s for the most part through Fairmount Park and then up Martin Luther King Jr. Boulevard as we made it to the halfway point just before the Philadelphia Museum of Art. It was a really beautiful day. One of the best things about running this race are the views as you run alongside the river.

As we rounded the Art Museum (mile 14ish) and headed out along Kelly Drive towards Manayunk, my wife started to struggle a little. Not from the fall (her knee wasn’t bothering her) but she sometimes gets hip and IT band pain during long runs. It doesn’t happen in every marathon but we had just done the hilliest parts of the course and I think it was beginning to catch up with her. It was also warming up so that may have added to the stresses. We had already run 14 miles and that is no mean feat in itself. Our pace slowed as we started to take some walk breaks and we were now running miles in the 11 minutes per mile range but at least we had forward momentum and were making our way along the course.

The crowds are thinner from the point at which we leave the City through the park and up Kelly Drive which sometimes makes that stretch seem longer than it is. We finally reached Manayunk (miles 19 through 21) and this is where the crowds pick back up. We were welcomed by residents handing out oranges, beer and other goodies. The crowds were thick and loud as we reached the end of the main street and hit the turnaround. Once you get to that point around mile 21 you know you are going to make it home…although it does seem more than 5 miles to you at this stage. We were doing well, taking walk breaks as needed.

On the road back from Manayunk it is just a matter of keeping focus and committing to getting to the finish. People are dragging at this stage. We just kept focusing on form and moving along and not trying to think of any negative thoughts. At one point a local running club was offering some relief for runners during the last few miles. My wife stopped at one of these stations and had a lady massage her IT band with a running stick (like a rolling-pin being pressed into the muscles). It brought tears to her eyes. Not sure if it was pain or relief but she wanted to hug the lady and thank her. Relief I guess as she wasn’t complaining.

As we hit mile 25 and rounded the corner we could see the Art Museum in the distance and knew we were almost home. As we approached mile 26 the crowd was deep and loud and we saw people we knew out there cheering us on. Any moments of discomfort or pain were behind us now as we sprinted toward the finish line to cross with an official time of 4:42:56. Not our fastest but it was quicker than my wife’s last Philadelphia Marathon. She had made it through the discomfort of the back half of the course and overcome a little fright from her fall earlier in the race. I was really proud of her. I had finished my second marathon in the space of two weeks so I was thrilled.

We passed the finish line and went to collect our medals. Our friend Robyn was at the finish line as a volunteer passing out the medals and it was such a nice surprise to see her and receive our medals from her.

IMG_4248IMG_4243

Always great to finish another marathon and as you can see we pretty happy.

IMG_4263IMG_4262

As usual, we didn’t hang around too long. Always somewhere to be. In this case it was a birthday brunch for one of my wife’s friends so we dashed to the finish line to pick up our car and head to our sister and brother in law’s house for a quick shower. As we were dashing to the car we bumped into another friend who was out there cheering people on.

IMG_4264

Always fun to have cheer leaders out there

IMG_4265

Done and headed for brunch

We walked into the brunch (although we Uber-ed to the restaurant) wearing our medals. We had earned our food and it tasted really great. Our medals were replicas of the Liberty Bell and we had the sounds of ringing in our ears all day as we wore our medals.

No surprises here. I’ve already signed up for the 2019 race.

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.