2018 Walt Disney World Marathon Weekend – recap

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

So here goes…

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

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

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

On the TTA…

…off the TTA

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

Awesome bonus FastPass

We just saw the cost of our vacation!!!

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

A cold but fun day at the Magic Kingdom

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

Arriving at Wide World of Sports for the expo

At the Field House for the bib pickup

The boys are all set for the races

Heading to the start line

They did it!!!

This was 6 years earlier at our first runDisney weekend

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

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

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

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

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

Team Shenanigans at the Half Marathon

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

Trying to stay warm during our wait in the corral

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

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

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

At the entrance to the park

At the entrance to the park with the dedication plaque

Finally in the park. Back where we belong.

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

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

Some fun stops along the way – The Great Goofini

Some fun stops along the way – Sebastian

Some fun stops along he way – Suzy and Pearla

Running through Fantasy Land

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

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

Arriving in Future World

Heading to the finish line

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

We are Groot

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

Yeah, yeah….the mile

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

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

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

It’s not easy being green

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

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

A fun billboard just past the starting line

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

Almost there

We have our Rainbow Connection

Launchpad and Scrooge McDuck

The Evil Queen from Snow White

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

Main Street. My happiest place in the Happiest Place

With the Tweedles and the White Rabbit

With Lady Tremaine, Anastasia and Drizella

The nice Castle photo

A pretty darned impressive Castle photo

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

Carl, Russell and Doug from ‘Up’

With Clarabelle as we approached the Animal Kingdom

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

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

A much needed lift at this point in the race

Our obligatory Haunted Mansion photo

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

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

With our friend Goofy at the track

Minnie was waiting for us at the soccer fields

Mickey and Donald were waiting for us at the baseball stadium

In the outfield and rounding for home

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

Feeling ‘Lucky’ with Oswald

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

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

Cheers from Mexico

Running through World Showcase

We made it to Future World

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

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

Mission Accomplished

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

What a beautiful and fun day

Yeah We Did!!

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

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

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

Magical Mickey Ears

Heading out to celebrate the marathon

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Closing out the park

November 2017 – Month in review

November 2017 – Garmin Connect

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

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

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

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

Nice sunny day for our run around the park

Some solid splits for this run

They had pie

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

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

2018 is looking like this for me now:

January – Walt Disney World Goofy Challenge

April – Delaware Marathon

July – New Jersey State Triathlon – Olympic Distance

November – New York City Marathon

November – Philadelphia Marathon

Thank you for reading.

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

2017 Philadelphia Marathon – Race recap

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

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

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

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

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

Arriving at the Convention Center

Expo time

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

Bib pick was well organized

Bib pick was well organized

Bib pickup was fairly easy

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

Meeting Bill Rodgers

Fingers crossed this brings me good luck

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

Seriously…not alphabetical?

Seriously…not alphabetical?

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

Something different

My next race…after my next race

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

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

All set and ready for the next day

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

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

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

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

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

A grey morning start at the corral

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Another marathon finish in the books

Marathon #19 complete

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

24 ounces of pure gold

A little too much time in the high red zone

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

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

So, until next year…

 

 

 

 

Catching up…at 88 miles per hour!!!

This is going to be a quick and rapid catch up as I can only use the ‘Wayback Machine’ for a short time.

With all the training that I was doing for my July half iron distance triathlon I let the blog updates sit on the back burner for a while. Something about the 3am wake ups and two a day work outs that finished around 9pm made me avoid logging on late at night. Strap in tight…this is going to be a very quick update.

June

Garmin Connect – June 2017

This was by far the biggest month of training for my half iron distance triathlon. I logged 398 miles (107 running/279 cycling/12 swimming).

Back in early June I ran in the Freedom Mortgage 5K. I was right in the middle of my triathlon training so I was feeling fit. Given that I had run this event well last year I was looking forward to returning. Also, this is the event that my wife was the race director for. As was the case last year I came down with the boys and my father in law. The race course was certified this year (it was long last year). I ran hard and ended up running the exact time as my previous 5K PR (from back in 2012). I was really pleased. I placed 1st in my age group and 15th overall. I earned my donuts that day.

My finish time for the 5K

We made it a family affair again this year.

At the end of the month my wife finally convinced me to participate in The Color Run. I have been hesitant to participate in these races although my wife has run the past few years. I only agreed to do this as we were going to run as a family. At the end of the day it was a fun time and my kids had a blast…until we got home and we had to scrub them clean in the shower.

Running through the Phillies stadium during The Color Run

In the midst of it all…

I guess this says it all

June was a really intense training month for the triathlon and I was more than happy to start my taper at the end of the month.

July

Garmin Connect – July 2017

The above calendar tells quite a story. In the end I logged 157 miles for the month (32 running/121 cycling/4 swimming).

July was my big event month. I had been training hard for the Rev3 Williamsburg triathlon and was looking forward to having the whole family down with me in Williamsburg for the weekend. As you can read here, the race didn’t really turn out as planned but it definitely was a memorable experience.

The rest of the month was pretty much me being sidelined. I ended up having to cancel my race entry to this year’s New Jersey State Triathlon. I had to rest my body as best I could. I tried running late in the month but I was a little too ambitious. I had to dial it back. However, I found a good compromise by using a sling and slowing my pace down…. a lot!!!

How I felt getting started again

End of July sling running

August

Garmin Connect – August 2017

Albeit very slowly, I logged 143 miles this month. Running only. It will be a while before I’m back in the pool and I’m staying away from the bike for now.

My actual training plan for this year’s Philadelphia Marathon began in the last week of July. By August I was just getting into the early stages of the plan and struggling a bit with pace. I would still be wearing my sling and by the end of each run I would be hot and tired due to the heat and humidity. I still gutted it out though. We had our family vacation in Myrtle Beach, SC during the third week of August. I was up early to beat the heat every day (not that you could really escape it) and despite my lack of pace I was able to pretty much stay on my training plan. By the end of the month I was running without the sling. Taking it easy still but getting back to form.

Free winging it

September

Garmin Connect – September 2017

This month I logged 182 miles of running.

September primarily consisted of buckling down to marathon training. I had chosen Hal Higdon’s Intermediate II training plan which is slightly higher mileage than the Intermediate I which I have mostly used. I thought following all the triathlon training I would be in a better position to do the higher intensity training. I hadn’t planned on my accident back in July and so hadn’t gone back to update my annual training plan. I figured I could do a couple of extra miles here or there. My mid-week runs are higher than on the Intermediate I plan and coming up in October I will be doing three 20 mile runs vs two which would be my usual training for a marathon. September therefore had pretty high mileage.

It was a very warm month with no break in the weather that one would expect for early fall so my pace was slower than would normally be.

During the month my wife and I participated in the Philadelphia Rock ‘n’ Roll Half Marathon. This year however we didn’t immediately sign up for the 2018 race so we shall see if this will be on our plan for next year.

October

Garmin Connect – October 2017

This was the big month of training as I get ready for the 2017 Philadelphia Marathon. I logged 203 miles of running.

I spent a lot of time on my feet running around. This month included the three 20 mile runs I mentioned earlier with three 50 mile weeks out of the month. I didn’t have much time to sit back and relax but all in all I was glad to get through the month uninjured and ready for the taper.

One change that occurred this month was that I finally changed out of my regular shoe after 6 years in the same type (Brooks Adrenalines – I’d worn models GTS 11 through GTS 17). I had been struggling a while in this shoe and the last two iterations (the GTS 16 and 17) just didn’t have the same fit and feel. However it takes a leap of faith sometimes to try something new.

I read a review about the updated Saucony Omni 16 and decided to give it a go. I took them out on a 5 mile run and they felt fine. I was already experiencing difficulty in the Brooks shoe and to some extent my feet were feeling some pain points at the end of runs. On the day of my second 20 miler of the month I had run about a half mile before I had to turn around and go home. There was pain on the top of my foot from the Brooks overlays. I took a risk and ran in the Saucony’s after only wearing them for 5 miles the day before. They came through the challenge as did I. The shoe profile is slightly different (there is a lower drop in the Saucony vs the Brooks) but the stability was there when I needed it.  Needless to say I return the two unopened boxes of Brooks and replaced them with the Saucony’s. Fingers crossed this is the right move for me. So far so good. I ran the rest of the month in them including the third and final 20 miler.

Thanks for sticking with me on this. Time to hand the Wayback Machine to its real owners and get…

 

2017 Rock ‘n’ Roll Philadelphia Half Marathon – race recap

Back on September 17th, my wife and I ran this year’s Rock ‘n’ Roll Philadelphia Half Marathon. This was my 7th time and my wife’s 6th time running this event. We seem to be ‘repeat offenders’ when the email from R’n’R comes out the day before the race, offering discounted entry for the following year. (Spoiler alert…we passed on signing up for 2018 for now). This would be our second R’n’R run for 2017 after the D.C. Marathon back in March and therefore we were eligible for a bonus medal (the ‘Double Beat’).

The Double Beat medal

So going in, this race review will probably be similar to the ones posted about 2013 through 2016 (with the exception of the year the Pope caused the race to move to October 31st). Rather than comment about the course (which was the same as last year) I’ll highlight the key parts of the weekend and any changes from last year’s race.

Our last 6 finishes together

Since I started my new job back in January I am much closer to Philadelphia so I made a trip to the expo on Friday after work (saving us a trip to the expo on the weekend with both boys). Interestingly enough, the expo seems to be getting smaller each year which surprised me. This year it was held as per prior years at the Convention Center in Philadelphia. I arrived just after 6pm (the expo was until 7pm on the Friday evening) so I had just under an hour to get in, pick up bibs and shirts and explore the expo.

Packet pick up with pretty uneventful. Very quick and easy as was the shirt pick up. They had an area for shirt exchange where I could sample a different size (although I kept my original). From there I headed to the merchandise area (again sponsored by Brooks Running). Some cute stuff but nothing blew me away that I would need to buy this year so I avoided the (smallish) crowd and headed out into the expo hall.

Arriving at the expo

None of the weekends races had sold out

Upon entering, everything was clearly signed

Bib and t-shirt pickup was pain free

Merchandise was the typical Rock ‘n’ Roll fare. Nothing that screamed out to be purchased.

Then it was quickly through and off to the main expo

I was very surprised by how small it seemed compared to previous years. It didn’t seem that there were as many vendors as prior years and even some of the bigger vendors had smaller booths. Well, at least I got home earlier than planned.

It seemed a much smaller expo than previous years

It seemed a much smaller expo than previous years

It seemed a much smaller expo than previous years

It seemed a much smaller expo than previous years

The morning of the race we arrived really really early. For some reason we told the babysitter to be there by 5am…we arrived in Philly at 5.45am and we didn’t really need to be there until 6:30am. Oh well, at least my wife had a lovely extra few minutes sleep until it was time to go.

Not quite ready

As usual it was fairly straightforward to deal with bag check and the port-a-potties were plentiful…as were the lines waiting to get in them. We arrived in fairly good time. I did get a chance to say hello to some fellow Team Shenanigans members before heading towards the corrals.

Ready for a nice run around Philadephia

Despite being early we are still smiling

Obligatory wife jump shot

We had a full agenda ahead of us after the race. We figured that we would be able to be done early as we were in corral 7. When we were in the corral people were moving up so we did too. No one was policing the corrals so we actually started up near corral 5 (that saved us all of 4 minutes).

In the starting corral

Okay, now we’re ready

It was a warm morning and once off and running we quickly heated up. What was noticeable was a lack of water early in the course. I know that this is a big race and they probably need to spread things out once the corrals are released but this was a warm and humid day (high 60s to low 70s) but the first water stop wasn’t until nearly mile 2.

Photo op on the course

The course was the same as last year (as mentioned above) so there were no real surprises for us this time around. We settled into our pace and were doing reasonable splits for the first 7 miles. We may have gone out a little too fast in the early miles and this caught up to us as the heat and humidity started getting higher around mile 9. It was a bit of a slog going into the last few miles but we persevered through to the finish in a time of 2:05.

Another finish line

At the finish line, in addition to the cool Benjamin Franklin medals, they provided us with towels dunked into ice water. That was a great relief, as was the chocolate milk that this race always provides. 🙂

Post race goodies to refuel

Our 2017 medal

As we were in a rush to be back home for the boys we just grabbed our stuff and headed back to the car. It seems strange that we treat this as a normal run these days and can pretty much predict our finish times so we can plan our day accordingly. Checking back on our previous years running this race we have run times consistently around 2:05 with our best being 2:00 and our worst being 2:07 (which was a much warmer and humid year).

I guess it is because we have done this race so many times now this seems not to be such a huge race for us as it used to be. Drop in…run…leave. Oh well, we might have to sit out a year or two on this one. We didn’t rush to re-sign up for 2018 as we usually would for that reason. Still it was another fun day and always a treat to be able to run with my wife.

Thank you for reading.

Rev3 Williamsburg Triathlon Weekend – ‘The Revolution’ – Race recap

It’s just like falling off a bike…

It took a while to sit down and write this review, after all this race weekend was at the beginning of July and I am writing this in early September. There’s quite a lot to tell about this event both good and bad and I’ve tried a few times to sit down to recap this all. Here goes.

I completed my first half iron distance triathlon (70.3) back in July 2016 and when I was looking to do a second I took a long look around at the options, from price and timing as well as location. The factors that made me choose Williamsburg was that it was drivable, the timing meant that I could bring my family along and also that this was priced very reasonably (vs some of the ‘branded’ events). So Rev3 Williamsburg was chosen and I registered for my second half iron distance event in early September 2016.

So, you know how I like challenges which involve back to back and multiple races in the same weekend,  (think Goofy Challenge, Dopey Challenge, Rocky Challenge), back in December Rev3 announced that this weekend would offer two challenge races, the first was ‘The Double’ (Sprint Tri on Saturday and Olympic Tri on Sunday) and ‘The Revolution’ (Sprint Tri on Saturday and Half Iron distance on Sunday). I’m not one to miss a challenge opportunity for a bonus medal and so I spoke with the race team and registered for ‘The Revolution’. Got that? A sprint triathlon as a warm up to a Half Iron distance. It should be a busy weekend.

I chose the same training plan for the Half Iron race that I chose for my first 70.3 last year (10 week novice plan from Endurance Works). This meant that my training plan started on May 1st which gave me a few weeks of recovery from the Rock ‘n’ Roll DC Marathon back in mid-March. This worked well in the past and all I was looking to do was to finish both races not necessarily in podium position 😉

As this was going to be a family trip (we would be away Friday through Monday) I splurged a little and booked the family into Great Wolf Lodge in Williamsburg. It was about 20 minutes from the race site at the Chickahominy Riverfront Park. My family would be at the park for the Sunday race (families were encouraged to run the finish line with their athlete) so the kids would be busy and entertained on Saturday, Sunday morning and however long we would stay on the Monday before heading home.

As my boys were going to join me in the race I purchased these shirts online so they would look the part on race day 🙂

As I was getting all my gear ready for race day I was paying close attention to the weather forecast and also the river conditions. The Rev3 Williamsburg Facebook group was especially helpful in this. Based upon the feedback of the people in the group it was not worth packing a wetsuit as it was not going to be a wetsuit legal race. I had been experimenting with talking salt tabs due to the heat and I had picked up a new running handheld bottle for the run portion of the race that I planned to use to hold the salt tabs and also to refill at the aid stations as needed.

Saturday’s forecast

Sunday’s forecast

In some of my other races I had taken along a bucket to both store my equipment and also to use as a seat during transition. I hadn’t needed one for the half iron last year as there were stools provided to the athletes. I made what can only be described as an innocent mistake by asking the group if stools were provided or whether there was space for buckets and boy oh boy did that raise up a Facebook storm!!!!

Race weekend finally arrived; we picked our boys up from their day camp and headed down to Virginia. We arrived at 9pm that evening just in time for the late night kids activities at Great Wolf Lodge. This gave me plenty of time to check in and bring all my gear up to the room to prep for the Sprint tri on Saturday morning. As race packet pickup was on race day we didn’t need to arrive any earlier. With everyone settled into the room and my bags packed for the next day we called it a night and I tried somehow to get enough sleep before my first race.

IMG_2847

It took a while but we made it safely

Made it to the Lodge

Saturday July 8th – Sprint Triathlon

Saturday morning came early and I tried to very carefully get up without waking anyone else in the room. I did my best but my wife said she heard me. Luckily the boys didn’t. Although my gear was ready to go, I still had to take my water bottles out of the refrigerator and move my bicycle out of the room like a ninja in order not to make any further disturbance. I still have no idea how I managed that.

It was still dark outside when I left the hotel, packed up my car and racked my bike. The drive to the park was down a long unlit stretch of highway. I had been followed out of the hotel parking lot by a couple of cars that also seemed to be heading to the race. I was up in the front so they were relying on me to lead the way…uh oh. On the side of the road there were plenty of deer and other wildlife. I was very much on alert not to 1) get lost with everyone seemingly following me and 2) not get hit or hit a deer running across the road. Not the most calming of drives. Finally I (we) made it to the entrance to the park and we were directed by the race staff where to park.

It was still dark when we arrived and I was very grateful that I had packed my running headlamp in my transition bag so I could see what I was doing in the unlit field. Race packet pickup and gear pickup was very simple. They had a board listing all the athletes so they could look up their race numbers if needed. I grabbed my race packet and went over to pick up my special ‘Revolution’ gear and was able to head back to the car to grab my race bag and bike. They also gave me this awesome note in my race packet 🙂

IMG_2848

Cookies? It’s like they really knew me.

The sun was starting to rise at this time so I was able to put my headlamp away, change out of my outer clothes (my tri-suit was underneath) and head over to the transition area. All were very clearly marked out and there were plenty of volunteers available to help out.

I found my spot to keep my bike. I was at the front with all the other ‘Revolution’ entrants. There were about 20 or so people doing the Sprint/Half Iron combination and we would have the same number both days. As we were at the front of the transition area, once I had set out my gear for the day, I was able to move my transition bag to the side to save some space. By the way…I saw people with buckets!!!! One bucket was even decorated with tinsel for the event 😉

All set for the Sprint tri (no bucket)

Ready to go

A nice clear morning

The race was due to start at 6:30. I was in the second wave so we were called out of the transition area just after 6:00am. It was a long walk to the boat ramp where the swim would start and I hadn’t thought to bring any throwaway sandals. I knew that this was going to be an issue for me and I would need extra time to get down to the water. I was fine walking along the grass but ultimately I had to traverse a gravel path bare foot….I’m a delicate soul and all of a sudden I was moving as if walking on egg shells. Not fast and not glamorous. I was walking so slowly I was blocking traffic when a minivan pulled up beside me and told me to hop in so they could drive me the last couple of hundred yards to the start line. They people who ‘adopted’ me in the minivan were camped by the edge of the river and this was a nice thing they did for me.

It was an in water start so although people were able to do a practice swim (I didn’t) you had to get out of the water to cross over the starting mat to get back into the water. After the National Anthem they started letting the waves of athletes out. I had two caps in my race packet, one for today and one for tomorrow. I was nervously checking everyone around me to make sure I had on the right one for the day.

They announced that the water temperature on the day was 83 degrees (definitely not wet suit safe for the swim). Each wave was called and they had a couple of minutes to enter the water via the ramp and then tread water until it was time to go. Once it was my turn I made my way in (towards the back of the pack) and waited for the announcement to go. Then we were off.

The swim was an out and back around the buoys in a sort of triangle shape. Some part was into the morning sunshine and you could feel the heat, some was in the shade and you could feel it cooler. The river itself had shallow pockets of river mud. In fact on the way out if you were to swim too far the right of the course you would swim through shallow grass. Indeed there seemed to be some sort of rise in the lake bed and a couple of people actually stood up around me in the early stages of the swim right in the middle of the lake. It was weird to say the least.

Once around the turn it was slightly with current and I made my way along towards the bridge in the distance. As we approached the bridge and moved towards the shore I could feel my hands brushing the bottom of the river. The next thing I know I’m practically crawling along the bottom. I looked up to see that everyone was slowly walking into the shore through the deep, sloppy mud. I stood up and joined in. The river bed was soft mud so as you took each step you sank down. This made it a little difficult and made for slow egress out of the water. It also takes a bit of extra effort at the end of the swim. Finally I made it to shore and made my way into transition. Total time for the swim 28:34 minutes.

Sprint Tri swim

With no bucket on which to sit(!) I was able to dry myself and as always struggle to get my Injinji toe socks onto my damp feet. Not my fastest transition (6:06 minutes). As I was close to the front I grabbed my bike and headed to the exit in front of me only to find out that it was the run exit not the bike exit so I quickly turned around and made a beeline for the correct exit.

The bike course was a simple out and back. There was a bridge that we had to climb immediately on leaving the park but this wasn’t too cumbersome. As the course was fairly flat I was able to get into aero position relatively quickly and powered my way down to the turnaround (by powered I mean my speed…not too fast). The ride was nice and cool as it was mostly in the shade. The road was open to traffic and so there were a few cars to contend with but not too many and never crowded. The turnaround took us off the road and onto the riding/running trail that was all paved so it was pretty smooth coming back.

We had been warned to slow down going back across the bridge as there was a 90 degree left turn back into the park at the base of the bridge and we risked overshooting it and riding into the 5K course if we went too fast. It was a nice ride on the day and I was happy to return into transition and quickly change into my running gear. My ride was 54:34 minutes at an average speed of 16.82mph. I grabbed a salt tab and my water bottle only as I didn’t think I needed a gel or anything to boost my energy levels.

Sprint Tri ride

The run was also fairly flat and out and back. We had to cross one road and there were police controlling traffic. It had started to become much warmer by this time and it was still before 9am. I held a pretty decent pace coming off the bike and my legs felt fresh. I ran the 5K in 27:55 minutes at a 9:01min/mile pace.

Sprint Tri run

The finishing chute had us run off the paved road and along the grass. This felt good underfoot and the crowds were really great. My total time was 1:59:30 for the sprint.

The race provided free finisher photos which was really nice of them.

Post-race we were awarded a medal and a bottle of water and Gatorade and I headed over to the post-race refreshment tent. This was great. They had pretzels, animal crackers, Goldfish crackers and I grabbed a back of Famous Amos cookies and chilled out for a couple of minutes before heading back to the transition area to pack up.

As I was racing the next day I didn’t need to return my timing chip. I would need to come back later in the day for the mandatory athlete meeting and to pick up the Quarq Qollector GPS tracker that I had I had rented for the next day so my family could track my position via an app on the phone. Also as I had the same race number for both races I was able to leave my bike in transition for the next day so I was able to travel back to the hotel with less logistics to work out.

I headed back to the hotel (with a short stop at Walmart to pick up a cheap pair of flip flops for the walk to the boat dock on Sunday) where I arrived just as my family had come down for the day. The boys were getting face paint in the lobby and my wife had just grabbed breakfast for everyone. I timed it well. Fresh coffee and a bagel were waiting for me as I sat down with them. They went off to the water park and I got showered and dressed ready to head back for the 1pm meeting.

I Tri on Dunkin’

All cleaned up and ready to head back to the expo/race site

Feeling refreshed I headed back to the park and took my time to take some pictures of the venue, walk through the expo tent, look at the vendors and then grab my GPS tracker for Sunday. The race meeting was held on the stage and I was early enough to grab a seat under one of the tents out of the sun that had been set up. It was really hot by this time and shade was very welcome.

Entrance to the expo

Packet pickup

Information center manned through the whole weekend

Really straightforward. Even I could figured this out.

Easier to find your number in the daytime than early before dawn. Make sure you come prepared.

Race packet pickup was very smooth

The Quarq Qollector I rented for the half. It was a bit bigger than I had anticipated and they had run out of the race belts. Fortunately it was small enough to tuck into my tri suit pocket and didn’t interfere with the bike or run.

They had lots of merchandise available

I came early enough to grab a seat under the tent for the race meeting. It was very hot out in the sun.

The race team did a great job of keeping everyone entertained. The race announcer was awesome and very funny. The race director and the USAT professional gave their brief course description, reminder of the rules and other comments before opening up for questions. It was all well run.

Pre race meeting was very informative and we were entertained while we waited

After that I headed back to the hotel to join my family and hope to grab a nice dinner and an early night. My boys were having too much fun though so I had to join in as they started their ‘MagiQuest’ throughout the hotel. They were having an awesome time but eventually (I think around 10pm) everyone was back in the room and ready for a good night’s sleep.

Sunday  July 9th – Half Triathlon – 70.3

Sunday morning started early. I’m not sure how well I slept but by this stage I was both excited and nervous to get through the day. Having learned my lessons from yesterday and not having to remove my bicycle from a room of sleeping people I was able to get out and on the road without too much disturbance. I had my goal in mind as I prepared. Beat last year’s time!!!!

The drive in was easier today having already made the journey twice the day before. When I arrived I saw that it was much more crowded than the day before.

Ready for day 2 of ‘The Revolution’

Much more crowded for the second day

All set. Ready for my second 70.3

The race director had advised that bike pumps would be available within the transition area provided by the race mechanics (Gonzo Gears) so I didn’t have to bring mine from the car. I took my bike to them, they asked what PSI I wanted and that was that. A few nervous trips to the bathrooms and it was soon time to head to the water again for the swim. This time I was prepared with my $5 flip flops from Walmart. As I arrived to the water’s edge the lady who had driven my in the minivan yesterday recognized me as she was spectating today and wished me luck. I also ran into Meghan from Team Shenanigans who was there to cheer on her husband who was also doing the half. We chatted for a while and that helped calm me down before it was time for my wave to be called.

My wave was called and I moved up a little from yesterday to make sure I wasn’t too far back when it was time to go. The swim today was a similar course (out and back in a triangle pattern) just further with a few extra buoys to swim around to reach the 1.2 mile distance. The temperature of the water today was one degree warmer at 84 degrees.

I swam steady and kept a fairly straight line. My sighting is not usually my strongest part of the open water swim. As we rounded the furthest buoy and turned for home we definitely had a slight current as I had started to drift a little. Similar to yesterday, as we approached the shore line the river got shallower and we were back in the mud. At least today I was able to anticipate this a bit more. Overall, I was very happy with my time of 41:49 minutes for the swim. I knew I had beaten my swim time from my first half last year by a good margin (54:32).

Half Iron swim

Out of the water and heading to transition

I made my way through transition and today I struggled with my Injinji compression socks. They were long…and tight. That probably wasted a little extra time than I should have needed. Maybe next year I just go with the short socks and my regular Zensah compression sleeves. My transition time was 8:28 minutes!!! Seriously??? At least I knew which way to go out of transition today so that probably saved a few minutes 🙂

The bike course started out the same as yesterday. However, this time we went past the Sprint turnaround point and continued on for what would be our 56 mile ride. Again, this was fairly flat and I was making good time and keeping my average speed/pace up high like the day before. I was touching between 16.5 to 17.0 miles per hour which is pretty solid for me and was going well and on pace to beat my time from last year (although that was much more hilly up in the Catskill Mountains).

Looking very focused on the bike

All seemed to be going well and I was in aero position for most of the straights and then…

At mile 24 I was down in aero position tucked in to the right hand side of the road (as was the rule for the race). The road was slightly cambered and I was pretty close to the edge. Too close apparently as I drifted slightly to my right and dropped off the road a couple of inches into the dirt at the side of the road. Instinct made me try to steer left back up onto the road but my wheel was too low below the black top to reach the flat paved road. With my wheel locked against the road and the speed I was going I was thrown over the top of the bike landing hard on my right shoulder.

I landed ahead of my bike and I looked back to see my bike and gear strewn all over the road. I knew instantly as I couldn’t correct that I was going to fall. It happened really quickly and I literally went down, rolled and pretty much saw stars for a few seconds. I tried to get up and out of the road but felt a searing pain on my right. I was able to pull my bike off the road and move my gear but I was clearly quite stunned at this time. Thankfully I hadn’t hit my head on the road as I came down really hard.

A couple of riders called out to me as they passed to see if I was okay…which I said “Yes” to without thinking. I could see that my chain had come of the bike and tried to get it back on the cogs. What was I going to do out here at mile 24?

Luckily, very luckily, within a couple of minutes after the fall two trucks pulled up behind me. One was being driven by EMS and the other by the bike crew and a member of the race team. The EMS asked if I was okay, I told him I fell on my shoulder and slowly lifted my arms in a rotating movement. It hurt like heck but I said I could move it. I asked him if there were any bones that looked out of place or anything poking out where it shouldn’t and he told me no and said if I felt okay he’d like to move onto another part of the course where he was needed.

The bike crew behind me meanwhile had fixed my bike and cycled through all the gears. The bike wasn’t damaged (a bit banged up on the right hood and aero bars) and was rideable. The race team member asked if I was okay and if I wanted to continue and whether I needed anything. I was still shaking at this point but I gave her my name, asked if she had any water or Gatorade (they did) and said I’d try and continue at least until the next aid station. One thing I remember from all this was that a member of the bike crew was called Micah like my eldest son. I don’t remember much else though 😦

I got back on my bike and tried to move on. I didn’t notice until after the race that the force of me coming off the bike had ripped of my bike cleats in half. Based upon my Garmin data I was off the bike for about 5 minutes. I still had another 32 miles to go on the bike. The first few meters were really painful as I had to use both my arms to steady myself on the bike. I realized that as long as I didn’t move my arm too much I could manage the pain. I knew immediately that going aero was no longer an option. I just couldn’t move my arm that way and although I could move onto the handlebar drops it was very painful. My legs worked and other than a slight graze to my knee (luckily I couldn’t see how much my shoulder was bleeding) I was able to pedal forward albeit at a much more careful and slower pace.

I made it to the next rest stop and struggled to slow down and dismount. I knew I couldn’t ride through as I would have needed both hands/arms to ride and grab refreshment and that wasn’t about to happen. I kept telling myself that my legs worked and I could make it in. The pain was bad and I was thinking of worst case scenarios about what I may have done to my shoulder but at least that was making the time go by (although not the most positive way of thinking).

At one point as we went past another plantation (this one owned by former President John Tyler) I almost went off the road again. My heart was racing. This was tougher than I had planned. It was a flat course and should have been really fast. I was really on course for a fast time before the accident. Plan B was just to finish the bike and see how I felt.

I was really grateful when I made the turn left back onto the home stretch. I knew that I was slow and probably near the back of the pack at this point. I could see the runners on the trail running the out and back. Many of them were close to finishing or were done with the first out and back. I felt having made it this far I had to continue. Again, my legs still worked and I’d figure out a way to make it.

As I come over the bridge and rounded into the park I made my way off the bike (awkwardly) and back into transition. My bike time ended up being 3:44:10 at an average pace of 14.88mph.

Half Iron ride

I had probably lost 30-40 minutes as a result of the accident. Back in the transition is when I felt bad pain. I had to lift my bike to rack it and then I had to reach down to put on my shoes. It was hot at this point. My transition time was 3:39 minutes. I picked up my water bottle and grabbed a couple of salt tablets as it was now really warm and headed out of transition. I couldn’t swing my right arm and in the absence of a sling to hold my arm I immobilized it by grabbing hard onto my shirt with my right hand to keep it from moving about too much.

As I headed out on the run I saw Meghan who was waiting at the turnaround point (the 13.1 was a double out and back…over the bridge twice!!). She asked how I was doing and honestly said I wasn’t doing great. I told her I fell but I was determined to finish, and with that I set off to run the half marathon distance.

The heat was a factor at this point and I was feeling pretty fatigued. It may have been a combination of the injury and trying very hard to focus but I was clearly off pace and struggling. All I could do was keep moving forward slowly. I was well off my regular pace (I can run a 1:50 half marathon) and although I anticipated running slower during a half iron distance I was much slower than usual. Last year I ran the half marathon during my 70.3 in 2:18 and I knew I could do better. This time however my run time was not going to be relevant. My goal was just to finish.

As I passed through the aid stations everyone was cheering and very supportive. A couple of people asked if I needed anything for my arm (remember I couldn’t see it) but I said I was fine and used the aid stations to refill my bottle with water and ice so I could carry on.

Weirdly I’m smiling…probably because I saw the photographer. I certainly didn’t feel like smiling.

The out and back is along the paved trail. It was somewhat sheltered by the trees but there were some exposed areas that you could really feel the heat coming down. I have to ask why are all my tri-suits black? I have to do something about that!!! One of the great things about a triathlon is that all the competitors seem to be very supportive of each other and people were really gracious in encouraging me along. As the USAT rules do not allow headphones to be worn, runners are not tuned out of what is around them and so it made for great camaraderie during the out and back portions.

Not smiling so much now. As you can see I was gripping my tri-suit to keep my arm immobilized as much as possible.

I finally made it to the first turnaround (it seemed to go on forever) and headed back to the second turnaround over the bridge. I was still struggling. I made it up and over the bridge and I saw my wife and the boys waiting at the turnaround for me (actually I heard them before I saw them). They were cheering loudly and all I could focus on was them. I didn’t actually see that Meghan was still there and that two other friends from Team Shenanigans were also there supporting me. Brittany and Kendrick had driven up to cheer me on. I didn’t actually realize that until a couple of days later. I told my wife I was hurt and she suggested I see a medic to which I replied I would when I was done. What more could I do? The injury had already happened but I was still running and so I just needed to keep going to finish and so up and over the bridge I went out into the distance. If they can adjust the course for 2018 to make the turnaround on the other side of the bridge that would be great.

On my way back from the first turnaround

I didn’t see this picture until a few days after the race had finished. Here I am coming to the half turnaround. My friends said that this was the first time in a race they have never seen me smiling. I was really struggling and knew I had to go back out again.

The second half was a struggle. It was very hot, it was early afternoon and I’d been out on the course for almost 6 hours at this stage. My arm still ached and I was run/walking (more walking) by now. Once I hit the final turnaround I knew I had only 3 or so to go. I started to be more optimistic. I’d made it this far when it would have been very easy (and excusable) to drop out. If anything this was going to make for a good story and perhaps my kids would remember this. As this weekend had been all about family and I had promised the boys we could cross the finish line together all I knew was that I couldn’t quit. The thought of disappointing them was too much for me and forced me to keep moving forward.

As I approached the mile 12 aid station I saw Meghan, Brittany and Kendrick waiting for me. I was so surprised. I had been in a bit of a fog for the last hour and it was great to see them. They told me they saw me struggling (again, I hadn’t noticed them at the turnaround) and they wanted to make sure I finished. They ran with me up and over the bridge. They all wore flip flops and kept up with me which pretty much shows you how slow I was at this point. As we approached the base of the bridge they let me continue on my own as they and my wife and the boys headed towards the finish line. I still had to go around the transition area first as part of the course.

It was so great to have friends supporting me as I made my way back in. Very special.

As we rounded the transition area I threw my bottle towards my gear bag (FYI, I made it) and made the final turn into the finish chute where I was joined by both the boys and my wife following behind. This is why I didn’t quit. This was what made the weekend for me.

With my family approaching the finish line

My reward for this weekend. Made everything worth it.

Crossing the finish line together – as promised. This was my motivation to get through the run.

Finally I crossed the finish line. I received my medal and an ice cold towel (how awesome was that?) and even my boys received their race medallions for crossing the finish line. I was handed a bottle of water and asked immediately for medical attention and was taken straight to the medical tent. I finished with a time of 7:26:37 with a half marathon time of 2:48:32. About 10 minutes slower than my 70.3 last year and I was much slower on both the bike and the run as a result of my fall. At this point it didn’t matter about my time, the win was that I actually picked myself up and finished.

Half Iron run – not what I had planned for sure

My family followed me into the tent and I was soon followed by Brittany, Kendrick and Meghan who had gone to grab me a cold Yuengling from the cooler. So I was able to enjoy a refreshingly cold beer as I was being attended to by the medical team. The prognosis was that I may have separated my AC joint judging by where the doctor was prodding my shoulder and how high I jumped when he touched a certain part of the shoulder. He advised I get a precautionary x-ray just to confirm there were no fractures. They washed out my wounds and patched me up while I chatted with everyone. I was pretty much on a high now that I had finished. Once I was in a sling they allowed me to leave the medical tent.

Receiving medical attention and some cold refreshment.

All of us proudly displaying our medals.

Temporarily patched up. I’m still smiling though which is a good thing.

I headed to get some food with the boys. There was a good amount of food and I opted for some vegetarian lasagna and some oatmeal raisin cookies. The boys had a lot of fun waiting around the vendor booths earlier in the day and so were really happy that I was back, (maybe so they could go back to Great Wolf Lodge for the rest of the day). We sat down to eat and to literally catch my breath. I couldn’t believe I had finished but I’m glad I really toughed it out.

The boys were great. As we were sitting they were announcing and awarding the prizes. They boys asked me if I needed to be over there to get my award. I love them 🙂

We decided that as we were staying over for the night and the boys would be entertained back at the hotel that it might be best while I had the time to head over to get that x-ray today as we were not too far from the hospital. We had planned to join Brittany and Kendrick for some post-race refreshments but I hoped they understood that I needed to get checked out. I owe them a beer or two for coming to support me. Kendrick helped me pack up my gear and also helped me put the bike back onto the car for the journey home. I definitely could not have done any of that without him. I guess that’s an extra couple of beers I owe him. It’ll be my pleasure to provide them.

We left the race site and my wife took me to the local hospital (incidentally it was where the medical team for the race were from). My wife dropped me at the ER and I said I’d let her know any updates but that I’d be fine taking an Uber back to the hotel. At least there was something for everyone to do there and it would be better than having to wait around for me. Luckily the ER wasn’t busy and I was soon taken in to the treatment rooms to be checked up. Once I was into the treatment area they announced that I was the first triathlete they had seen today. At least I came first in something!!!!

Made it to the ER

Luckily there wasn’t a long wait for treatment

The medical team (once they heard my story) were impressed that I’d got back on my bike and finished. I spent my time waiting before and after being taken for x-rays catching up and explaining to my friends and family what had actually happened. Thank you Facebook!

When the news came back that I had indeed separated the AC joint and thankfully not broken or fractured anything I was put into a sling that immobilized my arm (it wrapped around my shoulder and around my waist) and was told to follow up with my local doctor when I got home. The nurse practitioner who set me up in the sling told me that it would take time to heal and that a fracture would probably have healed quicker. Gee, thanks…

A fancy new sling. Nothing fractured thankfully.

Once all my paper work was in order (yes, the bills came soon after 😦 ) I called for an Uber and made my way back to the hotel. Luckily everyone was having fun and hadn’t really missed me, although my wife did show some concern. The boys were disappointed that I couldn’t do the water slides with them but they were happy I was okay.

I went back to my room to shower and rest. Do you know how painful and difficult it is to get out of a tri-suit with a separated AC joint, not to mention the lack of skin on my elbow and shoulder? Yes, not the most pleasant experience showering. Getting my t-shirt on and off took a few deep breaths. Finally I was all clean and took some time to rest before dinner.

Post shower. Ouch. Took a couple of days before I was brave enough to attempt to scrub the tattoo off.

A unique weekend. 3 medals and 5 x-rays.

Sprint Tri medal

Half medal (the ribbon for the Sprint and the Half was different

‘The Revolution’ – I conquered The Revolution (although it almost conquered me).

We headed over to a nearby restaurant for dinner as I had plenty of calories burned and there was no way I was going to use them all, although I did try. They boys were happy that we were able to spend the evening at the hotel to continue their MagiQuest.

I was able to get a reasonable night’s sleep that night and realized how truly lucky I was that all I had was an injured shoulder that would in time heal. There were no other riders involved, there were no other vehicles involved and I hadn’t fallen on my head. I was very lucky and relieved.

On Monday morning we let the boys finish up their MagiQuest. I accompanied them up and down through the hotel as they completed the scavenger hunt until it was done and their names were listed as having completed the quest. They were extremely happy. It was a great weekend and we definitely have lots of memories to take away from here.

We all had some good but different memories from this weekend

I was very fortunate that I hadn’t travelled alone to this race. I am not sure how I would have managed to get back from the race, go to the hospital or even drive home. My wife took the driving role as we left Williamsburg and even though we took an unexpected tour through Washington DC(?) we made it home in good time. I’d like to thank her for her infinite patience in putting up with all my training and putting up with what happened over this weekend.

In summary, accident notwithstanding, the whole race weekend was really great. I have nothing but good things to say about the Rev3 team. They put on a well-organized and well supported race and made it fun. They made it all about the athletes and their families. I would recommend that you give them a look and if you are considering a triathlon to check them out. I plan to be back in 2018 to do this properly and see what I could really do (when I’m fully upright). The race director even followed up with me by email after I got home once he had heard all about the accident. I hope to sign up again soon although my wife will not allow me to even discuss signing up for anything until I’m fully healed. I have time.

It’s like falling off a bike. Just make sure to get back on.

May 2017 – Month in review

The theme for this month is ‘I’m tired!’. I started the triathlon training for my upcoming half ironman event on May 1st. It is a 10 week training plan to get me ready for the Rev3 Williamsburg race in July. I’m actually doing both the Sprint triathlon on the Saturday and the Half Iron distance on the Sunday. Sleep is something I’ll catch up on after the New Jersey State Triathlon at the end of July. ‘Tri Season’!!!

My total mileage for the month was 438 miles which was comprised of 16 miles swimming (all in the pool), 337 miles on the bike (unfortunately 293 were indoors on the bike trainer) and 85 miles running (51 on the treadmill). I have no idea how people train for a Full Ironman. They must never sleep. Or perhaps they drink a lot of energy drinks?

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Garmin Connect – May 2017

So most of the month was taken up with training. Up early to get a workout in before work and then up late to get a workout in when the boys were in bed. Towards the end of the month I just got up extra early to get both workouts in before work. It gets harder as the week goes on for sure. You cannot fake training for this distance. You cannot wing a 1.2 mile swim. I’m pleased that I’m sticking with the plan and I’m sure that finishing the race will feel like an amazing reward after all of this.

I took part in a new race for me this month. The Bucks County 10 Miler. This was my first 10 mile race for a long time. I’ve not been able to run the Broad Street Run for a few years as I’ve either run the New Jersey Marathon or the Pittsburgh Marathon on that date or the week prior. This year my wife ran Broad Street so I got my turn a couple of weeks later in New Hope, PA.

This race was so up my alley

The race was started and finished in New Hope, PA so a Star Wars theme was part of the event. Great. I’m a big fan. It was run mostly along the Delaware Canal and the conditions on the day were perfect. Not too hot and sunny. I myself wore a Star Wars themed shirt but I saw commitment from people running in full costume. Kudos to those runners. As much fun as the them was, I was still there to race. My official time was 1:22:25, which is a full 3 minutes faster than my last 10 mile race a few years ago. It’s not a distance I regularly race.

Finisher certificate

Don’t run Solo…Take a Wookie

The race left me confident that I’m able to push when I need to, which is great. The rest of the month was then back and focused on my triathlon training as the countdown to race weekend begins. Next month I will be ramping up the time/distances on the plan before tapering during the last week of the month. I’ve got to get there first…

Thank you for reading. See you next month.