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.