March and April 2017 – Two months in review

With the Memorial Weekend upon us I am finally catching up on my blog. Between my new job and training for my half ironman in July I haven’t had too much time to sit down and recap so here goes. March and April 2017. Better late than never.

Rather than use my Nike+ Summary to recap I’ll be sticking to my Garmin Connect data as it catches more of the workouts than just running. I still use Nike to track my workouts but my Garmin device syncs the data to the Nike site so it is the same.

March 2017

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March 2017 – Garmin Connect data

March was marathon month. My total mileage for the month was 143 miles which was made up of 128 miles of running and 15 miles on my bike. You will see that there was another day of snow shoveling but thankfully that was the last of the winter snow.

The month started with me actually gaining acceptance to the New York City Marathon on my third attempt at going into the lottery. As you will know, I didn’t make it in previous years but my wife was accepted in 2016. I ‘race chased’ her during the event and this made me more motivated than ever to get into the event. The good news is that I got accepted. The bad news…I have a family engagement in Virginia and I cannot do the race this year. I have deferred to 2018 so while I don’t have to enter the lottery next year, I have to wait almost 22 months to run the race. Fingers crossed that all is well and I can fulfill my goal next year.

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Good news….just a very long wait until November 2018.

My wife and I ran the Rock ‘n’ Roll DC Marathon on March 11. My recap is here. It was a great but very cold weekend. That was marathon number 9 for my wife and number 18 for me. Fun times together.

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2017 Rock ‘n’ Roll DC Marathon

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Taking advantage of a weekend away and doing some sightseeing.

Once I got back from DC I was away on a training course for my new job for the next four days. I had planned on resting but the food was both good and plentiful. I spent every morning getting up at 4:30am and hitting the hotel gym for a good number of miles in what should have been my recovery week. Oh well. On the plus side I was in the hotel when the last major storm of the winter hit. My family was not so lucky. Hence the snow shoveling on my return home.

April 2017

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April 2017 – Garmin Connect data

My total mileage for April was 160 miles made up of 147 miles of running and 13 miles on the bike. A big milestone for me this month was reaching 10,000 miles of running since I started logging my workouts in September 2011 (just over a month since I began my couch to 5K program). This happened on April 2nd.

April 2

At the start of the month, my wife and I took part in the Phillies Charities 5K down at Citizens Bank Park in Philadelphia. Home of the Philadelphia Phillies. It was a great spring morning and the weather was perfect for running. We did a pretty good time together and we earned ourselves another medal, tickets to an upcoming game and some time on the field for photos.

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We took our boys to their first game of this season on April 8th and we saw a history making win over the Washington Nationals. They scored 12 runs in the first inning to win the game 17-3. It was a great night for baseball and we all had a fun time.

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Waiting for the game to start.

On April 9th I took part in the Bookin’ For Lookin’ 8 miler in Newtown, PA. Over the last few years I have not been able to run this event and only participated by making a charitable donation. This year, without any races on the calendar (the last two years have been the Rutgers UNITE Half Marathon) I took part in this event. It started out at Council Rock High School and was an 8 mile out and back loop into Tyler State Park and back. It’s a hilly course but I hit my stride early on and was very pleased with my time. It was a glorious sunny day and the event was well managed. I’d recommend it if you live near and have the opportunity. It is a fund raiser for two local charities, Foundation Fighting Blindness and Bucks County Association for the Blind and Visually Impaired.

Here is the elevation chart. I’m not exaggerating about the hills.

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Pleased with my time, especially on those hills.

May starts the beginning of my half ironman training. I hope that I will not be waiting too long to post my recap but please bear with me in the meantime. I should have lots to report over the next few months.

Thank you for reading.

2017 Rock ‘n’ Roll Marathon, Washington D.C. – Race recap

Back on March 11th, my wife and I were in Washington D.C. to run this year’s ‘Rock ‘n’ Roll’ D.C. Marathon. This was our first ‘RnR’ race outside of Philadelphia where we have run the Half Marathon each of the last few years. This was our chance to run multiple ‘RnR’ races in one year and earn one of the extra medals in their ‘Heavy Medals‘ series.

We had signed up for this marathon with the added incentive that Marathon Finishers were to receive a special jacket for completion of the race. We are pretty easily motivated by free swag and so that was the mantra for our all the winter training to be ready for the early (or just pre) spring race.

Our big fear training through the training was that it could be a bad winter. Actually, it was pretty mild. We did lose a couple of days of training due to snow and ice but for the majority of the workouts we were able to run outside, especially on some of the longer runs. In fact, the last long run for this marathon occurred in February when we were able to dress in t-shirts and shorts as the weather was so good.

During our last long run together I said we had been incredibly lucky with the weather which was when my wife yelled at me for jinxing us. Just because I had said this she started to say she would blame me if the weather turned bad. Oops.

As we got closer to race weekend the forecast kept getting colder and conditions worse. I felt a little unsure of my safety…I had to keep reminding my wife about the jacket…it’s all about the free jacket. In fact, the day we left for the race (Friday morning) there were a couple of inches of snow on the ground and the weather driving down to D.C. was pretty bad until we got to Maryland where it cleared up. As you can see from the screenshot below, it wasn’t going to the kind of weather for t-shirt and shorts.

 

Eek!!!

We arrived at the D.C. Armory early in the afternoon and were fortunate enough to find a parking space right outside the building. While the sun was still shining, it was far from nice weather. It was cold and windy. There was quite a lot of security to get into the building (every bag was checked and we were all scanned by a security wand). This led to waiting lines outside the building and it wasn’t exactly good weather for queuing up either. In fact, I had to run back to the car to grab some jackets as we were standing in line for a while.

Made it to the Armory – we had to go back to our car to get coats so we could wait in the line outside.

Once inside the expo we were led downstairs to bib pickup. We also had the chance to try on the Marathon Finisher jackets to make sure we had selected the right size. Bib pickup was fairly simple and t-shirt exchange was easy.

We’ve arrived

Bib pickup was on the lower level, the expo on the upper level (despite where the arrow is pointing)

Bib pickup was quick and easy

My wife has second thoughts about letting me personalize bibs in the future

My wife has second thoughts about letting me personalize bibs in the future

The infamous jacket

Once we were done with pickup we headed up to the main floor for the expo. This was typical Rock ‘n’ Roll series expo where Brooks Running had a significant presence followed by the general expo out on the rest of the floor. We didn’t pick up anything at this part of the expo but I did get to see the special edition Brooks Adrenaline Rock and Roll shoe. This happens to be the shoe I run in so I’ll keep my eye out for some discounts.

Your typical Rock ‘n’ Roll Brooks set up

Brooks Adrenaline GTS 17 – Rock ‘n’ Roll Special Edition

Other than the jacket, this was what we were running for 🙂

We then headed out to the main expo. Interestingly it was quite a small affair than what I had expected. We were quickly through the floor and didn’t really see anything unique that caught our eye.

Obligatory race bib photo

Just before the exit to the expo Rock ‘n’ Roll had some race merchandise set up. Both my wife and I bought the same cool shirt, me the long sleeve and my wife the tank t-shirt.

We bought the Abe in the sweatband t-shirt

I had signed up on the website to reserve spaces on the bus that would return us from the finish line back to the start line (this was a point to point race). I asked the information booth where to pick up the tickets. I was told all I needed to do was to show my receipt (the email) to the driver the next day. Sounds easy, so off we left for our hotel.

Outside the expo we bumped into my friend John who hosts the Runner of a Certain Age podcast (we recorded a race recap a few days later which you can listen to with this link). He was running the half marathon the next day. We probably wouldn’t see him the next day as the marathon started at 7am and the half marathon at 8:30am so we wished him luck and will probably catch up with him again at another race.

We then headed to check into our hotel and then meet up with a friend for a pre race dinner. We made a reservation at a restaurant near our hotel in Dupont Circle which was recommended by a fellow Mickey Miler teammate who works nearby. We met up with our friend Robyn and it was a nice relaxing meal. It was obviously a popular place pre-race as more runners seemed to check in for dinner (we figured that with the sneakers and their Rock ‘n’ Roll gear bags they were runners).

Walking to dinner from our hotel. Notice the cherry blossom behind us.

After dinner we stopped into Starbucks for my usual pre-marathon cookie. It’s a tradition I work hard to maintain 😉

It wouldn’t be a marathon without a pre-race cookie

As the weather was not expected to get above the mid-20s the next day I set out warmer clothes than I would normally run a race in. I used a jacket that I could zip open or closed depending on the conditions. It was more worried about waiting around at the start but I did have a plan for that.

Flat Ian – a little warmer than usual.

As we were close by to the start line we were able to walk from our hotel. We got up at a reasonable time (my wife would tell you too early) and made our way to the lobby (she refused to leave until she saw another runner pass through the lobby). My wife was wearing her New York City Marathon finisher blanket and I was wearing my father’s old dressing gown that he left on his last visit from the UK. It was nice and warm and worked perfectly (although I looked like an escaped mental patient walking the streets of D.C.).

We look silly but warm

We walked to the starting area from our hotel as the sun was rising and noted other runners doing the same. As this was the National Mall where the Smithsonian Institute, the White House and all the other Governmental offices were situated I expected quite a lot of security around the perimeter. Certainly after how much there was at the Armory the day before. Instead there was none. There were no check points, nobody checked our bags. Really unexpected.

Once we were changed out of our warm gear (I decided to pack the robe rather than throw it at the start line) we headed into our corral.

The trash bags are out. That should keep us warm in the corral.

Not a bad view to start a race. Early in the morning – note the long shadows.

Ready to get moving

The starting temperatures were in the low 20s. There were not many marathon runners and they brought the waves through very quickly. In fact, as they moved the waves forward we ended up actually on the start line rather than back of a corral so it was kind of weird to be right up front waiting for the word to go, but once we got the word we were off (and hopefully giving us a chance to warm up). We had been out of our plastic bags for a couple of minutes waiting at the start line and already I couldn’t feel the ends of my fingertips never mind my toes.

Here is the full marathon course map:

Full Marathon Course Map

The first mile of the course took us around the Mall and a few of the surrounding Federal buildings. We actually passed by the White House within the first half mile (it was to our right). Again, I was amazed by the lack of any security…I wasn’t amazed by the lack of spectators as it was very early and very cold.

Thankfully it was a beautiful sunny day. As there were fewer marathoners overall and the half marathon wouldn’t start for another 90 minutes or so we had wide open space to run. When my wife and I ran the Marine Corps Marathon in 2015 there were 40,000 people running at the same time. This race had about 2,500 people running and this made it comfortable to run.

After rounding the Mall and the Federal buildings there we ran around the Kennedy Center and the Watergate Building Complex and onto a short out and back that took us along the back of the Lincoln Memorial and along the Potomac River. I can tell you from comparison of the both this race and the Marine Corps race that you get to see more of the District during this race. I think during the Marine Corps Marathon (technically starting and finishing in Arlington, VA) you only get 2-3 miles at the most in the District.

Between miles 5 and 6 of the course was the ‘inspiration – run to remember’ Blue Mile. It was all uphill but the side of the road showed pictures of all the fallen who have served our Country. As we neared the second half of the hill, members of the military and families of the fallen were holding American flags out for us as we passed by. It was a big hill but puts into perspective that it is just a hill and there are people who endure more on a day-to-day basis. For that reason, we could make the hill with no complaints.

We ran through some genteel neighborhoods in D.C. and the weather was sunny but still cold. The sun helped but you could definitely feel the cold when you hit shaded areas. It was nice running through the Howard University Campus around mile 8-9 and the drumline that was playing was pretty great. In one of the neighborhoods during the first half some spectators were handing out champagne and donut holes. Sweet.

As we run through the Capital Hill district just before mile 12 we got a beautiful view. It was a gorgeous looking area and the view of the Capital at the top was the only time during the race we decided we needed to stop and take a picture.

In the Capital Hill area with the Capital in the background.

We rounded the corner into another nice neighborhood and we saw the markings where the half and the full were to split. The wind was picking up now and one of the directional signs blew down right in front of us. The split for the half occurred around mile 12.5 so we didn’t really see a glimpse of the finish line (actually it approached from a different direction than the full marathon). We still hadn’t seen any half marathoners as, although they would have already started, we were running a decent enough pace that even the leaders would have been a few miles behind us. We continued at a fairly decent pace. Pretty consistent actually and at this pace we would be on to beat my wife’s recent New York City Marathon PR from last November.

We hit the Washington Nationals Baseball Park just before mile 15 and the aid station before the bridge that would take us over to Anacostia Park along the river. This was the first time we saw that there were not enough volunteers manning the water stations. Most people were running the half marathon (13,000 vs 2,500) so we anticipated less spectators along the second half of the course but it seemed that also resulted in fewer people manning the water stops on the second half of the course. Don’t get me wrong, the volunteers were enthusiastic, there just were not enough to keep up with the runners. In fact, for most of the second half of the course water was the only thing available, no Gatorade, at many of the stops. You could see that the Gatorade mix was there in the boxes but there not enough volunteers to prepare the mixture let alone hand it out. It may have been something to do with the cold weather and I cannot fault Rock ‘n’ Roll because there were enough aid stations, just not enough people to manage.

The section from mile 15 to mile 18 is an out and back. Not much to see but you are always thankful when you reach the turnaround point. These are the tough miles in the marathon especially when it is an out and back. From mile 18 to around mile 21 we ran along the Anacostia River and a loop around the park. Although there wasn’t too much to see it was peaceful and thankfully all flat. The wind had again picked up and running along the water made the temperatures feel colder. We never really got warm during the race.

Okay then, here we go. As you leave the Anacostia Park area you enter Fort Dupont Park where there is an unfortunate hill, the second such hill of the day, however it was not a pretty sight at mile 23! It is both long and steep. We were becoming a little slower paced (still on for the PR) but we had managed to be caught by the 4:15 pace group. We watched them ‘attack’ the hill. The only thing I can tell you is that less than half of the group was still together at the top of the hill. It took a lot out of everyone. Unlike the hill around mile 5-6 there was not much to inspire, this was just a gutsy get to the top effort. We had to remind ourselves again about the jacket at the finish line 😉

Here is the elevation chart for the race. You can see both hills.

A couple of hills during our run.

That last hill, positioned where it was on the course, took a toll. We slowed down quite a bit. My wife began to feel some discomfort in her knee. I could feel my calf muscles twinge from the elevation. As we made our way back to the finish we had to walk a bit. My wife told me to go ahead but I was not intending to leave her so we walked probably close to half a mile or so until we saw RFK stadium rise up in the distance. It was then a run/walk to the finish (we had run straight through until the hill and were making good time). By now we had slowed down and the PR was out the question, still I knew we would still get to the finish around four and a half hours which was just a few minutes slower than my wife’s New York City time.

The stadium was on the horizon but it was like a wind tunnel running up to the finish line. The wind had picked up again and it was just cold. Slowing down had allowed us to cool down which didn’t help either. Nevertheless we sucked it up and made a run to the finish. We rounded a small hairpin turn within the last quarter of a mile which is where the half met up with the full. The finish line was divided into two different sides and the finish chute for each race started as the two races met up. We crossed the line in 4:31:16 which considering our big slow down over the last 3 miles was not a disaster.

We stopped for a quick picture before looking for a mylar blanket to keep us warm. It was still only 26 degrees at this time of the day even before the wind chill. Brrrr….

Made it. Another marathon down.

This was my 18th full marathon and my wife’s 9th. It was, despite everything, a good day.

We made our way through the finish line area to pick up some water and other refreshments. I like Rock ‘n’ Roll races as there is always chocolate milk at this finish line. This race was no different. However, as it was so cold it was like drinking a milk shake. I got brain freeze. My wife was so cold she couldn’t drink it. Our mylar wraps were blowing around and not really keeping us warm so we hurried over to the bag check to get our warm gear out again.

Feels amazing to be warm(ish) again.

We then had to line up for our Marathon Finisher jackets. After all, this is why we did this, right? Apparently, so did everyone else!!! Long lines but they moved fairly smoothly.

Look at all these crazy marathoners looking for a free jacket.

Once we had the jackets it was a matter of finding the shuttle back to the start. I had my tickets so I headed to the information booth. The lady at the information booth said that there were no shuttles and didn’t know what I was talking about. The map did however show a VIP shuttle area so we headed over to the VIP area to ask about the shuttles to the start line. No one had any idea what we were talking about. The map did say where they were supposed to be so albeit with little help from anyone who knew anything about RFK stadium we made our way to where the shuttles were said to be parked. There was a lot of walking involved….and stairs. We were not happy (or optimistic at this point).

Yeah…just what you want to see at a marathon.

The only problem was, no shuttles. Any empty parking lot. Ugh. We made our way to where the roads were open to traffic and decided to call for an UBER (this would be my first!!!) We had no money so the taking the Metro was out. This was not smart and totally my fault. I had four fully loaded Metro cards back in the hotel but I was relying on the shuttle so I didn’t bring them along. As we approached what appeared to be every UBER users’ rendezvous point we stood and waited for ours to arrive. Luckily ours seem to arrive ahead of everyone else and so we took it back to the hotel which was better than the shuttle would have done for us anyway. The driver even cranked up the heat for us in the back. We were very grateful.

Best UBER driver ever!!!

We made it back to our hotel and grabbed some coffee to warm up. We showered and got ready to head out for a late lunch. We took time to admire that darned jacket!!!!

Was it worth it? I’m not sure. I just like running marathons I guess.

So that we didn’t stiffen up we decided to take a walk from our hotel around the local area and grab a bite to eat. We filled up on warm yummy food and indulged in an awesome peanut butter milkshake (which we did share). Notice my wife is wearing her marathon finisher jacket 🙂

She had to make sure the jacket got into the photo.

We took another UBER into the District and spent the afternoon at the National Museum of American History. Specifically the Armed Forces exhibit which we didn’t get to fully see when we came with the boys last summer. We were in the museum until it closed around 5pm and then took the rest of the day walking through the Mall and back to our hotel where we were pretty much beat for the day.

Walking around to keep ourselves moving.

Marathon legs? What marathon legs?

36.3 miles? Yes, I was pretty much toast by the end of the evening.

The next morning we had brunch plans with a friend of my wife. We did have a reservation but it was still an hour or so wait for a table. We gave the restaurant manager our cell number and he said he would call us around 15 minutes before our table would be available. We took advantage to walk around the George Washington University Campus where we were and then headed over to the Lincoln Memorial. It was a glorious sunny morning (still not warm but warmer than the day before). What a great finish to our weekend.

At the Lincoln Memorial

At the Lincoln Memorial

At the Lincoln Memorial

Despite the cold we really enjoyed the race. The course was beautiful but the hills were tough. It was definitely worth more than just the jacket.

Thank you for reading (I know this is really really late).

 

January and February 2017 – Two months in review

Life has been a little busy, all good though. I’m only just getting around to catching up so this will be a quick recap of both January and February together.

Here is my Garmin and Nike data for January.

Garmin Connect – January 2017

Over 201 miles this month – 178 miles running with a couple of days cross training (Swimming – 1.66 miles and Biking – 21.85 miles). Notice January 7th with the snow shoveling activity that got added!!!!

Nike just records my running total. This is the result of training for a marathon during the winter.

Nike + Summary – January 2017

I was happy to wake up early on January 1st and knock out a 15 mile run while the streets were quiet. Best running day of the year (provided you are dressed for the weather). We have had a fairly warm winter although I did have to take a few long runs on the treadmill due to juggling some parent handling duties and extra early morning runs. Still, I was able to keep myself occupied with numerous episodes of Star Trek – The Next Generation.

My wife and I were still able to get outdoors together thanks to the mild weather. This made winter marathon training much more fun – especially when we were able to get our long runs in together while the boys were in school on Sunday mornings.

Here we are running along the Delaware Canal Towpath

 

Crossing the Delaware River at Washington Crossing. A little colder but still a great morning.

Here are my Garmin stats for February.

Garmin Connect – February 2017

You will notice another day of snow shoveling on February 9th. To have only 2 days of major shoveling in two months is great and welcome relief for my lower back! No swimming this month but total miles of 166 miles for the month made up of almost 141 miles of running and 25.5 miles of riding (indoors). As you can see we knocked out the last of our long runs mid month and very happily enjoyed the start to our taper.

Nike + Summary – February 2017

February weather was incredible. I got to run my last 20 mile run outdoors in t-shirt and shorts….in February!!!!!!

Incredible weather for mid-February. So lucky.

For Valentine’s Day this year my wife decided to sign me up for a couple’s class at the Orange Theory Fitness gym she attends regularly. Boy, was I not prepared for that. I did hold my own but I’m not used to doing squats holding medicine balls or doing multiple rounds of burpees (they are not a nice thing!). I was very happy to have survived and enjoyed our sushi dinner at the restaurant next door post workout. With an extra helping of green tea ice cream.

My one, and to date only, Orange Theory Fitness class report

I had to skip my running for a couple of days after this as my quads were beaten up from the squats and burpees but I guess it was good for me.

February also brought about registration for the 2018 Walt Disney World Marathon weekend. Usually registration opens up in April but it seems to be getting earlier and earlier. My wife and I haven’t done a runDisney race since we did the Goofy Challenge back in 2015. This was the 25th Anniversary Walt Disney World Marathon and that it would be a special race (we had run the 20th Anniversary race back in 2013, my wife’s first marathon). We would also be timing this to be my wife’s ’10th’ marathon and my ’20th’ marathon. Big goals. To add into the mix we decided to register for the Goofy Challenge again. This is really such a fun race and this will be her 2nd Goofy and my 4th (if you include the Goofy distance that I ran as part of the 2014 Dopey Challenge). Our boys are signed up for the ‘Mickey Mile’ too that weekend. Lots to look forward to in 2018.

It should be a very special race again

Ready for a redo of our Goofy fun. Costume ideas are being planned.

Looking forward to another Goofy Challenge together

But firstly in March we have the upcoming Rock ‘n’ Roll D.C. Marathon and then I will be back in triathlon training mode. It will be a busy year.

December 2016 – Month and Year in review

December is over and another year has been completed. 2016 was a year of accomplishments that I never thought possible and was very rewarding.

Looking briefly at my December stats I completed 143 miles. I also managed to finally get back on the bike (albeit indoors on the trainer) and managed to make it into the pool a couple of times. It’s back to work over the winter. Hopefully this will pay off in the summer, however there is still the March marathon that my wife and I are training for. It’s going to be a long winter of training but all for a good reason.

Nike+ Summary - December

Nike+ Summary – December

You will notice from the Garmin data below that I have the ‘scale’ symbol from December 1st. I bought the Garmin Index Smart Scale on Black Friday…I’m already regretting that one!!! I’m hoping that this winter training pays off before I have to squeeze into that triathlon spandex in the springtime.

Garmin Connect - December 2016

Garmin Connect – December 2016

So, my total mileage for the year ended up as 2,388 miles made up of:

1,597 miles – Running

753 miles – Cycling

38 miles – Swimming

Overall it was a lot of fun. Lots of good work with some good results, so lets recap 2016.

January – March

With no runDisney races for the first time in recent years the winter months were spent training for the spring marathon and avoiding the cold and the snow. With the treadmill we bought at the end of 2015 I was lucky not to miss too many days of training. I even became a regular at the pool towards the end of February. My wife and I did run the Eanie-Meanie-Minie-Moe Half Marathon with our local running club (Bucks County Road Runners) as part of their Winter Series. Lots of fun…lots of hills…but on the plus side, lots of food at the finish.

Running the 'Eenie-Meanie-Minie-Moe' Half Marathon

Running the ‘Eenie-Meanie-Minie-Moe’ Half Marathon

My wife and I also took part in the Philadelphia Phillies Charities 5K. This was my first time running this event although my wife has run it every year. It was a lot of fun. I don’t run too many 5Ks and this was over too quick. Still we had a fun time down at the stadium.

And finished with a fun photo opp.

And finished with a fun photo opp.

At the end of March I was invited onto the Let’s Run Disney podcast to talk about my ‘Goofy In A Day‘ experience back in 2015 where I ran 39.3 miles in one day to raise money for ‘Give Kids The World Village’.

April

At the last-minute I decided to register for and run in the Rutgers Half Marathon in New Brunswick, NJ. I had run this race in 2015 and enjoyed it. It was a good warm up to race season. I wasn’t expecting too much and managed to end up running a new half marathon PR. A good days work and definitely a confidence builder going into the season. I was invited after this race to join my friend John on his  ‘Runner of a Certain Age’ podcast for a race recap.

On my way to a new Half Marathon PR at the Rutgers UNITE Half Marathon.

On my way to a new Half Marathon PR at the Rutgers UNITE Half Marathon.

May

At the beginning of May was the New Jersey Marathon. I had run this back in 2013 and 2014 and this is still my current marathon PR. This time I was running with my wife and we met up with my friend Elvin who ran with us for the first 19 miles. It rained from the minute we started the race until the end. It was a truly soaking run but we had fun and we made the best of it.

Outside the 'Stone Pony' in Asbury Park, NJ (Springsteen Country)

Outside the ‘Stone Pony’ in Asbury Park, NJ (Springsteen Country)

A few days after the marathon, I got up early one morning and while getting my biking cleats on I managed to strain my sacroiliac joint. Ouch. Big ouch. I was laid out flat for two days unable to sit up. After three trips to the chiropractor in two days and lots of time laying on a heat pad I was finally up and moving again. After 9 days off (yeah…I know not a lot) I was running again. My wife was the race director for her company’s 5K (which was more like a 5.5K) and we all (me, both boys and my father in law) were taking part. I didn’t want to show myself up so I put the hammer down and ended up 3rd in my age group and 10th overall.

Good enough for 3rd place in my age group.

Good enough for 3rd place in my age group.

The boys had a great time running the 1 mile fun run. My wife (and her company) did an awesome job.

Proud parent moment. The Heir and the Spare running the 1 Mile Fun Run

Proud parent moment. The Heir and the Spare running the 1 Mile Fun Run

Priceless. Crossing the finish line

Priceless. Crossing the finish line

Following the New Jersey Marathon I was in full triathlon training mode. I was training for my first Half Iron distance in July. My training went from a max of 7 hours a week (when training for a marathon) to between 12-16 hours a week at the peak of triathlon training.

June

During the peak of my triathlon training I had to take a business trip to London. I was unable to bike and swim during the 10 days overseas but I did get the opportunity to enjoy the great English summer and I got a lot of running time (and sightseeing through London) in the early hours of each day. My hotel was in Central London and I was able to cover lots of ground on foot. It was great. I was also fortunate to spend time with my Sister and her family and with my Parents. It was a great trip and a productive work trip.

Finishing my time in London with a final run over Tower Bridge. Maybe one day I will be able to get back for the London Marathon.

Finishing my time in London with a final run over Tower Bridge. Maybe one day I will be able to get back for the London Marathon.

July

This was the big month. This was what I had been training for all winter long. My first Half Iron distance triathlon. I participated in the HITS Hudson Valley Triathlon up in Kingston, NY. It was my first attempt at a 70.3 mile swim, bike, run event. I had a great experience made all the better with meeting up with my friend Bob (also doing the Half Iron distance) and having my wife’s Aunt and her family meet me at the finish line. I was on a high for days after the event despite my exhaustion. It was great.

I did it!!!

I did it!!! My first 70.3 (Half Iron Distance) traithlon

With my friend Bob at the finish line

With my friend Bob at the finish line

Later in the month and with temperatures in the 90’s I took part in the New Jersey State Traithlon at the Olympic distance. This was the site of my first triathlon attempt which was washed out by a lightning storm in 2015 with only the swim and bike legs completed. This year I was able to complete the race despite the intense heat and had a lot of fun. I’m already signed up for this event again in 2017.

2016 New Jersey State Triathlon

2016 New Jersey State Triathlon

At the end of July I was invited onto the Team Shenanigans podcast to talk about transitioning from marathon running to triathlon training and racing. That was a lot of fun (and thankfully heavily edited).

August

With my focus back on marathon training I set about the summer months getting my long runs in for my October marathon. While I may have sounded like winter training is hard (it is) the summer training for a marathon really beats you up. It is the heat and the humidity that really stresses the body. It is easier to run in the cold with layers to keep you warm but its hard to run in the heat as you are already minimally dressed and it is hard to cool down. We took our vacation with the boys this year in Myrtle Beach, SC and the heat and humidity were intense. I stopped on my long runs to refill my water pack which is something I never need to do at home.

Family vacation time

Family vacation time

While on vacation both boys ran a 5K with us to earn their own virtual runDisney medals. We were very proud of them and they want to do this again in 2017.

With their Mickey Shorts medals

With their Mickey Shorts medals

September

At the start of the month I was invited back (as a last minute stand in) to my friend John’s ‘Runner of a Certain Age’ podcast to talk about the Rock ‘n’ Roll Race Series.

This was the peak of marathon training for me with the upcoming marathon at the beginning of October. Thankfully the weather was still great for most of the month. Cooler but not too cool. I had two races this month, the Hightstown Triathlon (my last triathlon of the season) and the Rock ‘n’ Roll Philadelphia Half Marathon (my 6th consecutive time running this race).

The triathlon was lots of fun. I was confident going into this as this was the shortest of my races this year and it was great to be joined by a couple of my work colleagues. I ran the Half Marathon with my wife. It was a tough race as it was only 48 hours after my last 20 mile training run but we powered through and made a respectable time.

2016 Hightstown Triathlon

2016 Hightstown Triathlon

2016 Rock 'n' Roll Philadelphia Half Marathon

2016 Rock ‘n’ Roll Philadelphia Half Marathon

October

The first week of October was the Mohawk Hudson River Marathon. This was to be my goal PR race that I had trained for. Despite the scenery (the Adirondacks in the fall is breathtakingly beautiful) my time goal was not meant to be. I faded during the last 7 miles of the race and ended up running just over 4 hours. Not what I had planned but still respectable. I wasn’t disappointed. I did the best I could on the day but it just wasn’t my day. Still, we had a great weekend meeting up with family in Albany and my wife ran a great half marathon.

Although I missed my goal time I always celebrate a marathon finish

Although I missed my goal time I always celebrate a marathon finish

November

This was a busy but fun month. It started out with me ‘race chasing’ my wife as she ran (and earned a new PR) in the TCS New York City Marathon. She had won her place in the lottery and I did all I could to support her over the weekend. It was a great time and I was so proud of her. I had a lot of fun running and taking the subway all across the city. I managed to see my wife four times during the race and the weather was perfect.

The Great Race Chase

The Great Race Chase

My wife and her NYC Marathon finisher medal

My wife and her NYC Marathon finisher medal

The week before Thanksgiving is the time for the Philadelphia Marathon. This year I was running in the inaugural ‘Rocky Challenge’ which involved me running the Philadelphia Half Marathon on the Saturday and the Philadelphia Marathon on the Sunday for a total of 39.3 miles. It was lots of fun. I wasn’t putting too much pressure on myself other than to just finish each race. I was totally thrilled to run each race under my target times and for the weekend I ran a sub 2 hour half marathon and a sub 4 hour full marathon. This was despite a significant change in the weather between the two days. I was really pleased with my performance and this capped off my racing year on a high.

A good weekends work. A sub 2 hour Half Marathon and a sub 4 hour Full Marathon

A good weekends work. A sub 2 hour Half Marathon and a sub 4 hour Full Marathon

We finished the year with our usual Thanksgiving Day 5 mile Turkey Trot which our local running club puts on. My wife and I ran together with a fairly decent time (I think near one of our fastest times).

Always great to cross a finish line together

Always great to cross a finish line together

In Summary

2016 was a fun and rewarding year. I completed 3 marathons and 4 half marathons. I completed 3 triathlons, a Half Iron distance, Olympic distance and Sprint distance. I earned a new half marathon PR. I ran in London (and Atlanta and Arizona) and also participated in 4 podcasts. What fun!!!

I cannot wait to see what 2017 brings.

On my calendar (so far):

March – Rock ‘n’ Roll DC Marathon (with my wife)

July – Rev3 Williamsburg Sprint and 70.3 Triathlons (another two-day challenge)

July – New Jersey State Triathlon (Olympic Distance)

September – Rock ‘n’ Roll Philadelphia Half Marathon (with my wife)

I’m hoping to get through the New York City Marathon lottery this year (my 3rd attempt) and I’ll probably run the Philadelphia Full Marathon again in November.

Thank you for reading.

 

 

 

 

 

November 2016 – Month in review

Another late ‘Month in review’ post but technically getting in under the wire.

November was a busy month with 150 miles in training and racing. Not my biggest month for distance but one of the busiest for activities. With all the running, I did still return to the pool for the first time at the end of the month for my first swim since September. I’ve been focusing on my marathon training since my last triathlon so it felt good to finally get back in the water.

November 2016 - Nike+ Summary

November 2016 – Nike+ Summary

The month started off with the New York City Marathon. While I was not running myself (hoping to eventually make that lottery) I was there to cheer on my wife as she ran earning a new PR that day. It was my first time ‘race chasing’ and spectating a marathon and it was truly a thrill. The excitement for waiting for and watching my wife run her race and to cheer on friends and complete strangers was such a great experience. I cannot wait to experience this race for myself one day.

My wife and her NYC Marathon finisher medal

My wife and her NYC Marathon finisher medal

The weekend before Thanksgiving is the Philadelphia Marathon. This year was the inaugural ‘Rocky Challenge’. While I have mixed feelings about how the weekend was organized I was proud of my performance in running both races, the Half Marathon and the Full Marathon back to back, in under 2 hours and 4 hours respectively. They were two of my best performances at those distances this year.

A good weekends work. A sub 2 hour Half Marathon and a sub 4 hour Full Marathon

A good weekends work. A sub 2 hour Half Marathon and a sub 4 hour Full Marathon

On Thanksgiving Day itself is the annual Bucks County Road Runners Thanksgiving 5 Miler. This was my first race way back in 2010 when I started running. My wife and I ran together the whole race and this was our second fastest time we have run the race. It was a nice start to a long weekend of family time and was a great way to finish the month.

Pre-race at the Thanksgiving Day run

Pre-race at the Thanksgiving Day run

Always great to cross a finish line together

Always great to cross a finish line together

A nice way to earn our Thanksgiving dinner treats

A nice way to earn our Thanksgiving dinner treats

November marked the end of my race season but after a week of recovery I jumped straight into week 4 of my marathon training plan for the 2017 Rock ‘n’ Roll DC Marathon next March. Oh well, at least I finished the race season upright and healthy so that is something that I really want to give thanks for.

Thank you for reading.

 

 

2016 Philadelphia Marathon Weekend – ‘Rocky Challenge’ recap

 

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If it’s November it must be time for the Philadelphia Marathon weekend. This was my first marathon back in 2011 and I’ve run it every year I have been at home ever since (missing only 2014). As has been my habit, I signed up for the race on April 1st the day registration opened.

This year had a number of changes to the race weekend that were not announced until the end of April, almost a month after registration had opened. For the last 20 years the race was organized and run by the City of Philadelphia. This year, the job of putting on the race was given to the Philadelphia Parks and Recreation. This is the same organization that puts on the annual ‘Broad Street Run’ (which is the nation’s largest 10 mile run). Additionally they announced that the Half Marathon (traditionally run the same time as the marathon) would be moved to the Saturday, the day before the marathon on a completely new course. I felt bad for all those people who had already signed up and made hotel arrangements. Judging by the feedback the race received on Facebook, this wasn’t a popular change although at the time this did not impact me.

One of the best parts about running the Philadelphia Marathon are the crowds. When the half and full races are run together (the half is the first part of the marathon course) everyone runs together and just splits at the 13 mile mark. Plenty of crowds are out on the first part of the course. It is quieter on the second half but that is expected based upon the numbers doing the full. With the change splitting the races I was concerned that the race would lose an element of the great crowd support for the marathon as there would be less spectators out on the course. Nevertheless I put it on my training plan as the Sunday race was all I was planning to run.

However, in mid-September they announced that with the demand from runners who wanted to run both days they created a new ‘Challenge’ race, the ‘Rocky Challenge’ race. Well…you know me…if there’s an extra medal I have to sign up for it. I can still see my wife rolling her eyes at me knowing full well she wasn’t going to be able to change my mind, and so with her permission (well, kind of) I signed up for the inaugural ‘Rocky Challenge’. I now would be running both the Half on the new course and the Full on the original course (with just a couple of alterations).

I have done challenge races before, the runDisney ‘Goofy Challenge’ in 2013 and 2015 and also the inaugural ‘Dopey Challenge’ in 2014, so I knew what I would be in for. I had just 6 weeks between the Mohawk Hudson River Marathon and the Philadelphia Marathon weekend so I adjusted my current plan (2 weeks recovery, 2 weeks training, 2 weeks taper) to make sure that my weekend runs were simulations for race weekend, i.e. my Saturday run would be at least half the distance of the Sunday run so I was doing the same distance ratio each weekend prior to the race.

One other adjustment I made following the Mohawk Hudson River Marathon in early October was changing my plan from run/walk to try running these races straight through. While the run/walk method has been my mainstay since I started running, I wasn’t happy that despite doing a run/walk for the Mohawk Hudson River Marathon, I still got fatigued by mile 15 and slowed significantly by mile 19. My plan was to start running straight for my training runs to find the exact distance where I started to fatigue running straight through vs run/walk. To my surprise I wasn’t finding a great difference. With that being the case I decided to keep running straight through with the plan to try this under race conditions. Training seemed to go well.

The Expo

Race weekend arrived. There had not been too much communication from the race director nor on social media with regards to dates announcing bib numbers, waivers, corrals or even the event guide. There had been no reveal of the medal (despite announcing that they were waiting to reveal…it never happened). The expo was down at the Philadelphia Convention Center as per prior years. Before I headed down that day I left a message on the Facebook page asking if there was an opportunity to donate used running shoes to a charity. Again, no response from the race director or his team. I noticed plenty of people asking questions prior to the expo and there was no response. I wasn’t optimistic going into the weekend.

Traffic on a Friday evening in Philadelphia is not good. It took me almost 2 hours for what is usually a 45 minute drive from home before I reached the Convention Center and parked and made my way to the expo hall for race packet pickup.

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It was a rough ride getting to the expo but happy to have finally made it

As per prior years, the expo was set up in a similar manner. Once you entered there was a kids area to the left of the hall, bib and shirt pickup was at the back of the hall. Once you had your stuff you made your way through the official gear shop and then into the general expo.

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Entering the expo

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Pick up for the Half and the Full marathons (and Challenge)

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Bib pick up was on the left, shirt pick up was on the right

Now maybe I have been spoiled by so many years as a runDisney challenge participant and maybe I am being unduly harsh as this was the first year of the challenge here in Philadelphia, but the volunteers were not too aware of the challenge option. It wasn’t too easy to find but at the end of the hall there was a table with challenge bib pick up. I picked up my bib and noticed it didn’t have a corral assigned to it. I had noticed online that for all race numbers there were corrals assigned but not for Challenge participants and when I received my bib the corral was left blank. I had to go over to the corral change table and they looked up my corral based on my expected finish time, took a corresponding colored marker and wrote on my corral placement!!

"GREEN", so says the man with the green Sharpie

“GREEN”, so says the man with the green Sharpie

Having just looked at this picture again I am wondering why may name and age is accompanied by an ‘F’ and not an ‘M’???

I asked the volunteers if there was anything special I needed to do for the challenge, i.e. was there a special extra shirt or something I needed to pick up. They said no, I just got two gear bags(!) and a half marathon shirt and a full marathon shirt for which I had to get into two separate lines. So far there was nothing special to show this was a challenge. I hadn’t seen any medals, I hadn’t received a special shirt. Essentially I felt like I was just running two races with nothing additional to show for it.

I left the bib pick up area with my two bags, two shirts and hand marked bib and headed through the official merchandise area. There was plenty of varieties of merchandise and this was also split into men, women, half and full gear but no ‘Rocky’ or other challenge related merchandise. Again, I’ve been spoiled by runDisney but seriously I was thinking this challenge was just a way to sell spaces in both days and there was nothing being done to celebrate it or provide anything special for the runners. I was getting more disappointed as I progressed through this expo.

One good thing from the expo was that I saw my fellow Mickey Miler, Sam, who was there getting his bib and merchandise for Sunday’s marathon. That pretty much was the highlight from this expo.

I had seen a couple of things at the online shop prior to race day but they didn’t show the full range of sizes online. I tried to look for them at the expo but to be honest I was looking for something specific to the Challenge. I did go up and down the aisles and I did purchase a Philadelphia Marathon trucker hat but nothing else. I was really disappointed that they had no medals to see, nothing related to the Challenge of any sort and pretty much breezed through the rest of the expo and headed for home.

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Plenty or Half and Full specific gear

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Mostly generic ‘Philadelphia Marathon Weekend’ accessories

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Some more varieties of merchandise but nothing Challenge specific

I made my way home to set up my gear for the next day and the plan was to get an early night (or as best you can with two boys under 10 in the house).

Gear was all ready and I was hopeful that the races would be more enjoyable

Gear was all ready and I was hopeful that the races would be more enjoyable

Day 1 – Philadelphia Half Marathon

Race day arrived and I was up at 4am for the first of my two days of races. The Half Marathon started at 7:30am but I was my usual nervous self and got up early. The weekend forecast was dramatically different for both days. Saturday was supposed to start cool but warm up, but Sunday was supposed to be cold and windy with temperatures 20 degrees cooler than the day before.

I made it downtown to my usual parking garage for race days (weekend rate $12 and only a couple of blocks away from the race staging area). As per the last few years (since the Boston Marathon bombing) there was a large security perimeter and security checkpoints around the various access points. I was early. It was a little chilly and I was dressed up in a jacket and light pants but I was still cold. I was more worried about the next day if I was this cold on the better weather day.

I was here so early the dinosaurs were not yet extinct

I was here so early the dinosaurs were not yet extinct

Security seemed fairly quick and simple, probably because I was so early. I heard that later runners had a much different experience. People who had water bottles on race belts were not allowed to bring them into the area. People with gels and other types of fuel were also not allowed to bring things into the area. This was crazy. Runners train with specific fluids and fuels but the security or volunteers at the checkpoint were not letting people bring in their own stuff.  Needless to say that when I looked at Facebook later in the day people were not very happy. This actually prompted the race directors team to send out an email on Saturday night before the Marathon with entry guidelines for Sunday. This should have been sent before the Half but this didn’t say anything about race fuels and said only that hydration packs or belts are allowed subject to screening. This wasn’t running as smooth as I had experienced in prior years.

Security barriers were up around a large perimeter

Security barriers were up around a large perimeter

All clean and unused. A perk of arriving so early. Tomorrow I wouldn't be saying the same

All clean and unused. A perk of arriving so early. Tomorrow I wouldn’t be saying the same

As I was so early I walked around for a bit, through Eakins Oval where the athletes village and charity tents were set up and then I walked over to the stairs of the Philadelphia Art Museum to see the Rocky statue.

Eakins Oval and tent village

Eakins Oval and tent village

Philadelphia Museum of Art (and the Rocky stairs)

Philadelphia Museum of Art (and the Rocky stairs)

Me and the Italian Stallion

Me and the Italian Stallion

Yo Adrian!!!

Yo Adrian!!!

As dawn broke I made my way over to bag check and got myself all set and ready for the start of the race. I had been there for a while and hoped to get a couple of sips of water before I started the race, however, the pre-race water tent was not yet open. People were lining up as they started to open up and unpack the tent. Again, just another of those things that got to me since the expo. I hoped at least that the race would be run smoothly.

'Team Cookie' ready to run

‘Team Cookie’ ready to run

In the Green corral and waiting to go

In the Green corral and waiting to go

The National Anthem was ‘played’ over the loudspeaker…yes, played. Not sung. Really? This is a pretty major race weekend. I was surprised. Soon enough the corral made its way to the start line and we were off.

Every year that I have run this race (and I believe every year it was run prior to that too) the half and full races have been run together so I was very familiar with the course that the half marathoners used to run. This year the race organizers announced that there was a new course. Okay, it’s always good to make a change and I would at least not be running the same route back to back.

The new course took us from the start down towards Independence Mall and wrapped us back around towards Logan Square. As is the case with Philadelphia, some people just walk out in front of you to cross the street because we are in their way. This was the case today. Luckily I was able to side step at the last moment or there would have been a pile on with a few runners.

From Logan Square we ran up Martin Luther King Jr Boulevard (West River Drive) and into Fairmount Park. Around mile 7 we had the first of what would be a series of uphills. Seriously…mile 7 through 11 were pretty much constant up and down hills. Not rolling…steep grades. The half marathon course in prior years was pretty flat. There was the hill up through Drexel University and the hill up to Memorial Hall but they were nothing compared to the hills we had to run up today. Wow.

I'm not kidding about those hills on the second half o the course

I wasn’t kidding about those hills on the second half of the course

As I wrote earlier, I was planning to run the whole way and not use my run/walk method. So far all was going well….until around mile 8 when I had to walk up the hill for about 60 seconds. It was getting quite warm at this point (ultimately the temperatures would be in the low 60s) and the hills just got to me. That was the only time I had to stop and walk.

I continued on and we left the park on the west side of the river and crossed over a bridge to the east side of the park and another hill. What was noticeable now was that we hadn’t really seen any spectators since around mile 4 when we headed out on West River Drive. Spectators were one of the things that made this race great in prior years. Running through the city on the old course the crowds were awesome. So loud and jammed in on both sides of the street. Here we had…well, there was a kids’ soccer game going on but those spectators were for the peewee game not the runners.

One thing I didn’t see, or maybe I just missed, was the energy gel station. There was supposed to be one around mile 8 or so. Nope, don’t recall it. Based upon what I read on Facebook after the race it wasn’t there. Considering that security had taken gels and other fuels off runners at the perimeter security checks that was not going to go over well.

Once past mile 11 the terrain started going downhill. The temperatures had warmed up and I was looking at a pretty decent time. I was hoping to run the whole way (pretty much mission accomplished so far) and my goal was to get close to 2 hours. I had to save my legs for the next day. However, I felt good so decided to run harder the last mile and see if I could get myself a good time.

As I rounded the end of Kelly Drive I was just under half a mile from the finish line. I pushed hard and crossed the finish line with a time of 1:54:57 (average pace 8:46). Wow. Very happy with that. I had some decent splits with my slowest mile being the one where I had to walk. I felt good. My legs felt fresh. Perhaps my weekend goal of getting a combined time of 6 hours was reachable. (2 hours for the half and 4 hours for the full was my goal). I wasn’t going for a PR but just a good performance. This was a great confidence booster going into tomorrow.

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First finish line of the weekend

First finish line of the weekend

First medal of the weekend

First medal of the weekend

Post race was set up differently than prior years. Probably because they had half the people per day as the races were split, the finish area was moved from the center of the Benjamin Franklin Parkway to a field on the left of the parkway.

Food tent was set up on a field to the side of the finish line

Food tent was set up on a field to the side of the finish line

Post race refreshments were plentiful. Everyone was handed water and there was plenty of food (pretzels!!!!) for runners. No bags though this year like last year so it was pretty awkward to carry this as well as keep your mylar wrap on. Some folks turned their blankets into sacks. Handy folks.

Plenty of food for runners

Plenty of food for runners

Plenty of food for runners

Plenty of food for runners

Plenty of food for runners

Plenty of food for runners

Mmmm...tasted so good

Mmmm…tasted so good

A great start to the weekend

A great start to the weekend

So as happy as I was with the race performance, I wasn’t thrilled with the course. Judging by the comments on Facebook not many people were thrilled. Their comments were the same as I had said above. There wasn’t enough time in the city. Plenty of time in the park but those places were not accessible for spectators so most of the run was pretty quiet for the miles in the park. The mess at security where people couldn’t bring in water packs and gels compounded by the lack of gels on the course. The lack of water at the start line. Surprising as this organization manages a much larger race (Broad Street has about 40,000 runners).

I didn’t stick around as I wanted to get home and rest for tomorrow’s marathon. I headed back to my car, quickly (or as best I could) get out of the city and got home for a 20 minute ice bath and a hot shower. We had plans with friends that night so I took it easy and rested in the afternoon. I laid out my gear for the next day so I could get straight to bed when we got home.

While we were out and about that evening the weather changed. The temperature dropped about 20 degrees and the wind picked up. Uh oh. Tomorrow was going to be quite a different experience.

Day two outfit - Team Kirk

Day two outfit – Team Kirk

Day 2 – Philadelphia Marathon

4:00am rolled around (too quickly) and I got out of bed. I could hear the wind whipping around the house outside. This was going to be interesting. The temperatures were in the low 30s. Eek. I was hoping my outfit was going to be enough.

I made it downtown and back to the same parking garage as the day before and headed over to the starting area. Security was much the same as the day before. The race organizers had sent out an email the night before saying what was and what wasn’t allowed through security. I assume they had shared the same email to security personnel at the checkpoints into the race area.

It was cold. Windy and cold. I made my way over to where I would at least be away from the wind. So far I hadn’t been too impressed with the changes to the race but in one action the race organizers changed my mind. HEATED TENTS. Yes, they had opened up tents that were used for something else previously and connected up heat sources to them. I crowded into one of the tents with everyone else. It was tightly packed. I decided to stay in there as long as I could until I had to get in line to use the restroom and check my bags. I changed out of my warm gear and got my bib on. I waited until I thought was long enough before heading out.

Warm race tent. Awesome.

Warm race tent. Awesome.

Bag all checked and ready to race

Bag all checked and ready to race

The lines for the restroom were not short and standing there in the cold wind was not the most fun I’ve had. Once I had done what I needed to do and checked my bag I put on my large trash liner. I was still shivering despite the layer.

Still cold...

Still cold…

I got into the corral and waited for go time. This morning the National Anthem was actually sung by a real person…not pre-taped.

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In the corral. Almost GO time.

So this was it. I was going to run my first marathon without run/walk intervals. My legs felt good despite having run a half marathon the day before. My goal was to get close to 4 hours. I was going to go for it and see how long I was going to last just running.

Go time!

As I approached the start line I almost missed the timing mat. I couldn’t see it ahead of me. Luckily I started my GPS watch just in time. More on that later. With that, I headed out on the familiar marathon course with a big smile. I just felt relaxed.

The first few miles went well. I was glad that despite the weather and the wind, the crowds were out in full. The cheers of all the supporters as we headed through Old City and through Center City really helped keep up my spirits. I was keeping pace with most of the people around me. I had stalked out a few people who were similar pace. One person was wearing an ‘Ironman Finisher’ hat so I figured they knew how to pace themselves so I mainly tried to pace myself with them.

The first big test of the marathon is the hill that runs up from Drexel University to the Philadelphia Zoo around mile 7 to 8. No walk breaks yet but I had to make a quick pit stop at the top of the hill (I’m getting old) but luckily this didn’t lose me too much time. From there the next test and really the only big test on the first half of the course is the run up hill to Memorial Hall. This is traditionally where I end up walking a little, but not today. I made it up without stopping. I knew it was flat once we reached the top so I could catch my breath as needed.

Elevation profile for the marathon. The main hills are on the front half of the course.

Elevation profile for the marathon. The main hills are on the front half of the course.

This was also the change to the course that was new this year. Rather than quickly round ourselves past the entrance to the Please Touch Museum and back onto the West River Drive we stayed up in the park and ran towards the Mann Music Center and rounded the back of the Please Touch Museum.

As we passed the Mann Music Center I suddenly got a stomach cramp. Eek. No bathrooms in sight (I had passed them at the water station and didn’t think I needed another pit stop). My next couple of miles or so was a pretty anxious time. There was nowhere to ‘go’ and nowhere to ‘hide’ in an emergency. Double EEK!!

We were soon down the hill and out of the park. Priority number one now wasn’t pace…it was to find a bathroom…without a line…and clean!! During mile 12 I saw a mirage. Four port-a-potties with no lines. Mission accomplished…

All refreshed and feeling much better I set out to continue my run. As the course had been altered this year with the extra distance in the park, we reached the half marathon point while still running on the West River Drive rather than right in front of the Philadelphia Art Museum as in prior years. By the time we wrapped around the front of the Art Museum it was mile 14 and I arrived just as the leaders were making their way up the finish line.

Here are my splits for the first half of the race. Despite two pit stops at mile 9 and 12, I still hit the half marathon point sub 2 hours. I was hoping that now I felt better, maybe getting close to 4 hours would be achievable. Only one way to find out, keep going.

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Also as we rounded the corner we were running headlong into the wind. The cold wind. And it was whipping up with sudden gusts every now and then.

The second half of the marathon course is an out and back from the Art Museum to Manyunk and then back to the finish line on the Benjamin Franklin Parkway. With the added mileage the race had eliminated the small out and back at the Falls Bridge. I hated that in all the years I’ve run the race. Another way the race organizers endeared themselves to me today.

The out and back on any course can be tough mentally. I had a few friends running so to distract myself during the run I kept looking for them. I didn’t actually see any friends until I was into the last few miles but it certainly took my mind off the race for a while.

My favorite point in the race is the turnaround in Manyunk. I know I’m on the home stretch with just under 10K to go until the finish line.

Here are my splits to the turnaround point. Slower but the wheels hadn’t fallen off like they had at this point at the Mohawk Hudson River Marathon the month previously. I still had something left in my legs and so I buckled down for the last 5 miles of the race.

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So having run to Manyunk into the wind and this being an out and back, you would think that I would be running with the wind at my back on the way to the finish line…not so much. Crazy. Well, at least the sun was out.

Looking at my watch I knew that if I kept my pace I would be coming in close, maybe a touch under 4 hours. Head down, keep on moving. You know what, I think I’m going to do it…

Next thing I know I’m approaching the Art Museum and the finish line would be right ahead…or so I thought. If you recall I had almost missed the timing mat at the start but now I realized that because of the wind they had taken down the Start/Finish line banner. So as I approached the finish line I couldn’t actually see it. A sort of panic arose as I had started my final kick to the finish line but I couldn’t see it and I didn’t know how long I could sustain this pace after almost 26.2 miles.

Finally I crossed the timing mat. I hit my watch and saw that I had finished under 4 hours. I couldn’t believe it. I had done it. In two days I ran sub 2 hours and sub 4 hours. I was elated.

My final splits

My final splits

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I did it

I did it

Post race area

Post race area

The post race area was the same as the previous day. Keeping my mylar wrap on in the wind was quite a challenge. The wind was still very strong and it was cold.  Coupled with the rapid cool down post race these were not ideal conditions. I grabbed some food and asked a volunteer if there was anywhere I should go for the ‘Rocky Challenge’. As per the expo the volunteers didn’t really know what I was talking about. I had read and re-read the original press release when I got back from the expo and they did mention that there would be an extra medal. Finally I found a volunteer who motioned to a tent…not a specific tent but in a general direction.

As with the Start/Finish line, all signage had been taken down so there was no way to tell which tent to look for. I saw someone else looking lost and I asked him if he was looking for the Challenge tent and he said he was so we both looked for it together. Finally we saw someone with a Challenge medal and they showed us which tent to go to. Because of the wind it was totally unmarked and was closed at all sides. We couldn’t find our way in. Luckily someone came out and we went inside. There were a couple of people checking details off a sheet and once they got my bib number they handed me my extra medal. All folded up. Not much fanfare and hidden from the main finish line area. I cannot imagine how many people missed this and didn’t pick up their extra medal.

Here it is. The 'Rocky Challenge' medal

Here it is. The ‘Rocky Challenge’ medal

Looks good added to the Full Marathon medal

Looks good added to the Full Marathon medal

I quickly got my bag from bag check so I could get some warm clothes back on. I had also brought my medal from the prior day’s Half Marathon (I had never thought to do that at any of the runDisney races) so I could take a picture with all three medals.

A good weekends work. A sub 2 hour Half Marathon and a sub 4 hour Full Marathon

A good weekends work. A sub 2 hour Half Marathon and a sub 4 hour Full Marathon

Once the photo was taken I got dressed as quickly as I could and headed back to the parking lot. It was too cold to stick around. I just wanted to get somewhere warm. I actually felt pretty good despite running 39.3 miles. I decided on the way back to the car to stop somewhere for coffee as I was shaking from the cold and just needed something warm before I got myself back into the car for the drive home. I found a small coffee shop on the way back. It was pretty crowded and full of runners and spectators but I didn’t want anything fancy, just hot black coffee so there was no long wait.

I made it back to the car and put on my heated seats and drove home…wearing my medals of course.

Looking back, I wasn’t thrilled with the weekend. The race organizers could do nothing about the weather but I was disappointed with the lack of response from the organizers on social media to any questions asked, the expo wasn’t too special and the fact that the Challenge seemed to be an after thought didn’t leave me with a good feeling. I really didn’t enjoy the new Half Marathon course but I guess moving to Saturday they had to avoid shutting down the whole city for two days. I just wasn’t a big fan of the course.

What was good about the weekend was the new Full Marathon course. I loved the changes. I think the only thing that made the weekend memorable for me was the fact that I reached my race goals of running sub 2 hour and sub 4 hour races, especially following the Mohawk Hudson River Marathon disappointment in October. I was pretty much on a high for the next few days. Really proud that my run straight through attempt worked out.

I got home and was excited to show the medals to my boys. It was 5 years since my first marathon in Philadelphia. This was my 5th Philadelphia Marathon and my 17th Marathon overall.

Here I am from my 1st and 17th marathon. I guess (apart from a few more pounds I’m carrying this year) yellow is my color.

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I enjoyed my dessert that night. I’d earned it.

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Thanks for sticking with this one. It was a long write-up.

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Yo Adrian….We Did It!!!!

The Great Race Chase – 2016 TCS New York City Marathon

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The TCS New York City Marathon was run on Sunday November 6th. As I have written previously both my wife and I entered the lottery but while I didn’t get in, she did. I promised to be here Sherpa for the day and after lots of planning the weekend arrived.

This is not a race recap, well not in the normal sense that I write them. I have titled this entry ‘The Great Race Chase’ for a couple of reasons. First, it was better than my first attempt at a title (‘Red Fraggle Runs’) and secondly because it was in fact a great experience ‘race chasing’ during the day. So much fun.

I had booked the hotel as soon as we knew that at least one of us was running that weekend. We had arranged for the boys to stay over at their grandparents overnight. We are only about an hour away from New York City by train so we only needed to be in town for one night. The hotel I chose was right in the middle of where we needed to be. We were a couple of avenues away from the Javits Center where the expo was held and only a couple of avenues away from the New York Public Library where the bus would be taking her to the race village. Once the lottery results were announced my wife was given an option how to get to the race and also to check a bag or not. We had opted for the bus transport to the race and to not check a bag and get the famous NYC Marathon poncho.

We headed up early Saturday morning along with my wife’s NYC training partner Stephanie. Once in New York we dropped off our bags at our hotel as it was too early to check in and made our way over to the expo. I wasn’t sure what to expect as this is the biggest race I have ever attended…and I still wasn’t running it.

Heading up on the train to NYC

Heading up on the train to NYC

Made it into the City

Made it into the City

Arriving at the Javitz Center

Arriving at the Javits Center

Ready for packet pickup

Ready for packet pickup

Once inside the Javits Center race packet pickup seemed quite straightforward. There were volunteers everywhere. Depending upon what you signed up for, you got a specific check bag or disposable bag. It was color coded. Also, bibs were detailed as to what wave and transport options you had been assigned. Interestingly enough, even though I had signed up (well, signed my wife up) for a specific shirt size when registering you still got to choose your shirt size. Before the shirt pickup there were sample size shirts for both men and women so you could try on a size before you picked one up. Good idea. I don’t imagine smaller races have the volume of entrants to offer such options.

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Bib pickup by number

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Detail of corral and wave on bib

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T-shirt sizes try on

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Race day options

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A huge merchandise area…

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…but a long wait to check out

The expo itself wasn’t as big as I thought it would be. The official gear area was large but it was generally the same gear spread over many places. Also, I was worried about a specific item being sold out by the time we got to the expo so I ordered my wife a jacket online. When we got to the expo they had more colors and more sizes than shown online and despite it being the day before the race they were already selling gear at a discount. I re-bought the same jacket for my wife $40 cheaper and returned the one I had bought online for a full refund….less the shipping cost 😦 . The expo had long lines to check out but it seemed to go pretty fast. I stood in line while Shari and Stephanie shopped so they could just jump in when they were ready. We didn’t do too much damage at the expo.

Onto the rest of the expo. It was a bit smaller than I had expected a marathon major to be. Probably because the main sponsor (Asics) took up much of the space. There was a Foot Locker booth which was selling official gear at yet another discount. My wife bought another shirt which she liked and was cheaper than it had been in the official merchandise area. Deal! Also walking around the expo we bumped into our friend Zara who was there with her company, Endless Pools, who were demonstrating at the expo.

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A nice surprise at the expo.

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Checking out the course

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Shari leaving her mark

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All that’s left now is the run…

Overall we were in and out the expo quicker than we thought and so we headed back to the hotel to check in and get ready for our dinner reservation. We had a booking at an Italian restaurant near our hotel and my wife’s cousin would be joining us for dinner and also joining me in spectating the next day.

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Word on the street is that she is running a marathon tomorrow

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Drinking a ‘Manhattan’ in Manhattan

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Heading back to the hotel for an early night

Dinner was really nice and we headed back to the hotel for an early night. It was made all the better by the change from daylight savings time which gave us an extra hour in bed.

I set about 3 alarms for us both so we would wake up on time. I wasn’t racing but made sure I was up and ready as I planned to walk Shari to Bryant Park and wait until she got onto the buses. So up early it was. The buses were set to leave at 6:30am although Shari’s wave wouldn’t be starting until 10:30am.

Shari had decided to borrow a friend’s running shirt which paid tribute to a little girl (the daughter of a friend) who had tragically been killed crossing the street with her father a few weeks before. The little girl was the same age as our youngest son. Shari was running with angel wings today.

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Up early and ready to run

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Running with angel wings

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Okay…small but someone would be able to read this (although she runs fast)

We headed out to Bryant Park. The buses were leaving from the front steps of the New York Public Library and the line for the buses stretched out around the corner and across the street. We stood in line and tried to stay warm. I couldn’t believe the lines but then again this was the biggest race we had attended. This was not like our recent visit to the Mohawk Hudson River Marathon in Albany when we just arrived and got on the bus.

I stayed in line with Shari until the police officer said I couldn’t move further in line without a race bib, so I kissed Shari good luck and crossed the street until she got on the bus and headed out. Then I went back to the hotel for an early breakfast and to get ready for my first ‘race chase’ experience.

 

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Leaving the hotel just as the sun was trying to rise

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Our view of the line for the buses from across the street

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In line for the buses. We still had to cross over and snake around the side of the library.

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Finally we reached the point where I could no longer wait in line without an official bib

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And off she went to the start village

Having had breakfast and a nice warm shower I got myself ready for the day, packed up my bag which included snacks, treats, signs, battery chargers and spare clothes for Shari, got my special ‘Spot me in the crowd’ pole and headed out to meet up with Shari’s cousin Tara who was joining me out on the course.

My large backpack fully loaded and my 'Fraggle on a stick'

My large backpack fully loaded and my ‘Red Fraggle on a stick’

I had been lucky enough to get a really detailed plan from my friend Elvin (Shari, Elvin and I ran together at the New Jersey Marathon earlier in the year). Elvin has run the New York City Marathon a number of times and knew the course well. He provided me with good locations where to spectate, the directions (transit and walking) how to get to each location and the timing of point to point locations so I could plan the day. Based upon the plan I told Shari we would meet her just after mile 3.5, just after mile 8, around mile 17.5 and just after entering Central Park somewhere after mile 23. Ambitious, but I figured we would try our best hoping for at least 3 of the 4 locations on the course.

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It was a fine morning. Ideal conditions for running. Hopefully I would be dressed appropriately to spectate.

Our first stop was just after mile 3 as the runners entered Brooklyn. This was where the runners who started from the Upper and Lower decks of the Verrazano Narrows Bridge joined up with each other as they left Staten Island. The road was split into two with a line of barriers and tape along the middle. We stayed on the side of the street where we had come out of the subway and hoped we were on the correct side.

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Ready with my first sign of the day

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Tara and I patiently waiting

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She was on her way. Tracking her accross the bridge.

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Cheering on all the other runners and keeping an eye out of my running ‘Red Fraggle’

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Brad from the ‘Mickey Milers’ managed to spot me on the course. The Fraggle was working.

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And before you knew it, Shari ran up and found us.

Luckily we were on the correct side of the street and Shari spotted the ‘Fraggle on a stick’ (see…it was working) and came over to see us. She was warmed up now and gave me her gloves and arm warmers to toss into my bag (along with the bottle of Prosecco which Tara had arrived with?!?).

From there we headed quickly back to the subway and took the line up further into Brooklyn to cheer Shari again at mile 8. Wow…what a mad dash that was. I barely had time to get my ‘Fraggle’ up before she came around the corner. We had just arrived seconds before she did. We didn’t tell her how close we had been to missing her but Tara and I were amazed at our timing.

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Second stop, second sign

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Just made it into the spot before Shari came around the corner and saw us

We had some time before we would see Shari again back in Manhattan. 9 miles at Shari’s pace gave us around 90 minutes so we took a quick stop at a nearby Starbucks for some coffee and a snack before heading back on the subway and back into the city.

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A quick Fraggle selfie on the subway

We made it to the mile 17 area and took our place along the streets. It was amazingly loud with the cheers of the crowd. I cannot imagine how this tunnel of sound would be for the runners (hopefully I would get my chance to find out in 2017). I was tracking a number of other runners I knew at the same time. The official app was loading slowly on my phone so it was just wait and hope. I was carrying a pound bag of gummy bears and a pound bag of Swedish Fish in my backpack so by this stage I was handing candy out to runners. Many were pleased to see it and some came over when they saw me handing out candy to strangers. (Do not do this kids!!! A marathon is the exception I guess). I did manage to see our friend Chris run by. He was a few minutes ahead of Shari at this point (although she would pass him later on the course).

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Third stop, third sign

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Shari again spotted ‘Red Fraggle’ first and headed over to see us

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She was running well and didn’t stick around. It was a very quick meet and greet and she headed off into the distance (or to the Bronx).

From this point on we had about 50-60 minutes to make it across town to our fourth and final stop in Central Park. It was a beautiful sunny day. The runners had really lucked out. The weather had called for strong winds and they hadn’t made an appearance. Conditions for them were really great.

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An Instagram selfie as we made our way across town

We entered Central Park just around the corner from where the runners enter. It was a great spot to see everyone coming into the park. Shari later said that at mile 23 it was a perfect spot to give runners a final boost for the last 5K of the race.

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Fourth stop, final sign of the day

While we were waiting for Shari we continued to cheer on the people running by. My friend ‘Fast Eddie’ flew past us and I almost missed him had he not high-fived my sign. Soon though, Shari came into view.

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Here she is with just a 5K left. Making great time.

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This is blurry as she was so fast. No stopping this time.

As this was the last place we planned to stop we went to our arranged meeting point outside the park. Based upon what we were told, the finish line area would be too crowded to get there in time and even harder for us to be spotted (even with a Fraggle).

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Tracking Shari’s progress to the finish on the official app

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She did it and with a brand new PR of 4:26

Shari crossed the line with a new PR, about 19 minutes faster than her prior marathon PR. This was the first marathon she had run without me. I guess we know who slows her down…

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A great race chase partner. Tara was along for the whole journey.

As we headed out of the park towards our meeting point I stopped to buy some flowers and couldn’t wait to see Shari again. The street was crowded so I did what anyone else would have done…I raised my Fraggle up in the air and hoped she would find us. And she did just that. Thanks to the Fraggle.

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Reunited

Our friend Genna was volunteering at the race and was one of the first to see Shari, giving her the mylar wrap to keep her warm as she headed to receive her poncho. Genna works at the 92nd Street Y in Manhattan just behind the Natural History Museum (the exit point for the marathoners from the park). She had arranged day passes for us to use so Shari could get showered and changed after the race. I had packed spare dry clothes for her and we headed over to get cleaned up.

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All cleaned up and smiles

I think we wore Tara out. She stayed with us until we left the Y and walked with us to the subway before heading off for her evening plans (a post race party a friend was hosting). We headed back towards our hotel via a stop at Ben’s delicatessen on the way for dinner.

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Hitting Times Square as we left the subway

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A very happy lady about to order a post marathon meal

After a very filling dinner, we grabbed our luggage from the hotel and headed for the train back home. Shari was still on a high as we left and chatted about her day. It was fun for both of us. As we arrived at our stop we had to cross over the tracks to the parking lot on the other side. Unfortunately the escalator was out-of-order and so we had to take the stairs. Yes, that was not the favorite part of the day.

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She still looked good climbing the stairs though

So there you have it. My first experience race chasing. Shari had a great race and a new PR. I am totally jealous. It looked like so much fun to be running this event. I would love to do this. I will be entering the 2017 lottery for sure when it opens up in early January.

Huge thanks to Tara for putting up with me all day, to Elvin for his masterful spectating plan and congratulations to all the runners…especially my ‘Red Fraggle’ herself.

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Thank you for reading.