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
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
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
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
Always great to cross a finish line together
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.
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
Made it into the City
Arriving at the Javits Center
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.
Bib pickup by number
Detail of corral and wave on bib
T-shirt sizes try on
Race day options
A huge merchandise area…
…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.
A nice surprise at the expo.
Checking out the course
Shari leaving her mark
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.
Word on the street is that she is running a marathon tomorrow
Drinking a ‘Manhattan’ in Manhattan
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.
Up early and ready to run
Running with angel wings
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.
Leaving the hotel just as the sun was trying to rise
Our view of the line for the buses from across the street
In line for the buses. We still had to cross over and snake around the side of the library.
Finally we reached the point where I could no longer wait in line without an official bib
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 ‘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.
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.
Ready with my first sign of the day
Tara and I patiently waiting
She was on her way. Tracking her accross the bridge.
Cheering on all the other runners and keeping an eye out of my running ‘Red Fraggle’
Brad from the ‘Mickey Milers’ managed to spot me on the course. The Fraggle was working.
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.
Second stop, second sign
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.
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).
Third stop, third sign
Shari again spotted ‘Red Fraggle’ first and headed over to see us
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.
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.
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.
Here she is with just a 5K left. Making great time.
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).
Tracking Shari’s progress to the finish on the official app
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…
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.
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.
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.
Hitting Times Square as we left the subway
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.
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.
A fun month with lots of running, relaxation and family time. No races this month but lots of other activies.
August 2016 – Nike+ Summary
This month was the most running I had done in a long time as I am ramping up the training for the upcoming Mohawk-Hudson River Marathon in early October. We also had a family vacation so I used this extra time to get a few extra miles in (I ate a lot of ice cream that week).
I didn’t do too much cross training this month. The majority of my miles were from running although I did do a couple of swim sessions totaling just over 3 miles. No bike riding this month though.
Garmin Connect – August 2016
The month started off with a quick work trip to Atlanta. Atlanta in August is hot hot hot. I had a couple of hot runs out there but I was fortunate that the hotel where I stayed provided cold towels in their gym so as soon as I returned from my run I went up to the gym and grabbed a couple of cold towels to cool down. BEST THING EVER.
Cold towels provided to hotel guests. So welcome.
I got back from Atlanta and we took a quick family trip to Washington DC to see some of the sites and explore the museums. It was a really hot and humid weekend but the boys were troopers and the museums were nicely air conditioned so that helped.
A great family weekend in the Nation’s capital.
Another week at work followed but I took the Friday afternoon off to see my boys to finish their summer day camp. I was happy that my son came home with the following award from his bunk at day camp. I can only hope he enjoys running as much as I have over the last few years.
My future pro?
Packing with a 6 year old is always a challenge/fun. Here I am trying to pack my bag…he was lucky I didn’t put him on the roof with the rest of the luggage!!
My 6 year old’s attempt at packing a suitcase. Not what we had in mind.
Finally we were all packed and headed out on the road to Myrtle Beach, South Carolina. Looking forward to a week of family fun together.
On the road
So, Myrtle Beach in August is hot and humid. Very. I haven’t really done marathon training in the Southern States during the summer and it was quite a shock to the system. I had on my plan a 17 mile run at the beginning of my vacation and an 18 mile run before heading home. I had plenty of time to relax during the week so I didn’t mind getting up early to beat the heat. There were, however, a couple of times when the heat nearly beat me. Thankfully I run with a debit card and a $5 bill in my running belt when I travel away from home. This was the first time that I had to stop midway during a run to refill my 50oz Camelbak water pack.
I had to stop around mile 9 of my 17 mile run to replenish all my fluids.
I’m not exaggerating (well maybe a little) but I swear I saw this on my run:
Anyway, hot or not, there was ice cream to be had this holiday in addition to daily rounds of mini golf for the boys so there were daily runs by everyone in the family. We had been working with the boys to run a 5K this summer and I had signed them both up for the runDisney ‘Virtual Running Shorts‘ series so by the time we reached the end of summer they could run a 5K and earn the ‘Red Pants’ medal.
Despite the heat and humidity (they would be running later in the morning than I would) they both managed to run and finish their 5Ks. Luckily we planned the route so everyone finished at Dunkin’ Donuts everyday for a treat and some chocolate milk (and coffee for the parents). Both boys seemed to really enjoy the experience (one more than the other) and they were both totally thrilled when I produced the medals for them to wear.
Asher completed his run first.
Micah completed his run the next day.
Both boys were really happy with their new medals. The medal was quite impressive.
It was a great vacation (the boys said it was the best ever) but ultimately it had to come to an end and we had to get back home and get ready for the start of the new school year.
A fun family vacation.
Back home and shopping for school supplies.
August was a fun month and as we wound down our vacation ready for the new school year we look forward to what September will bring.
July was a great month. I achieved things that a few years ago I never would have thought possible. Time for a quick recap.
July 2016 – Nike+ Summary
My running mileage looks low this month compared to my usual months of training. Indeed it was probably my lowest training month of running in a long time. I did however more than make up for that in total distance with swimming and running. My Garmin data below shows total monthly mileage of just under 308 miles made up of 9.8 miles of swimming, 190.6 miles of biking and 106.8 miles of running.
July 2016 – Garmin Connect Summary
The first couple of weeks of the month were tapering into the event, focusing mainly on swim and bike (I think I’ve got the running thing down). I had such an amazing experience competing in and completing my first half iron distance (70.3 miles) triathlon at the HITS Hudson Valley Triathlon. You can read the race recap here. I followed this up just two weeks later with the New Jersey State Triathlon to complete my first Olympic distance triathlon which you can read about here.
With all this talk about triathlons I was invited to be a guest to talk about my transition into the sport for an episode of the Team Shenanigans Podcast. A great bunch of folks who I got to know through the Mickey Milers running team. You can hear the episode here.
On 4th July my family all participated in the Washington Crossing Revolutionary Run in Washington Crossing Park, PA. My Wife and Father in law ran the 10K and my boys and I ran the 1 mile fun run. It was a hot morning but we had fun and after some refreshments (donuts) we had a nice fun family afternoon at the pool in our development following by a nice BBQ at home with the extended family. A good holiday weekend.
Happy 4th of July from The Running Crew
Later in the month I got to enjoy my Fathers Day present, Paul McCartney in concert at Citizens Bank Park in Philadelphia. Awesome!
Thank you Sir Paul
So yes, July was a good month. I also have some new hardware on my office desk. Well earned. Makes me smile every time I look at it.
Some new desk hardware
I know this recap is a little late (hey, it’s still not September) so thanks for hanging in there with me and thanks for reading.
I was recently invited to be a guest on the Team Shenanigans Podcast to discuss transitioning from pure running to stepping into the world of triathlons. While I might not be the most accomplished triathlete (I’m still a newbie) this was recorded just a week after completing my most recent half iron distance triathlon. It was a fun conversation (with some very good editing before publication).
On July 9th I completed my first half iron distance triathlon at Williams Lake, NY up in the Hudson Valley put on by the HITS Triathlon Series. This is a 70.3 mile event made up of a 1.2 mile swim, a 56 mile bike ride and a 13.1 mile run.
Since I started running back in the late summer of 2010 I have achieved many things I didn’t think possible. Just getting off the couch and training for a 5K was a big accomplishment for me. Slowly I built up my running endurance and 15 months after my first run I finished my first marathon, the 2011 Philadelphia Marathon. Since then I have achieved some big milestones for myself. In May this year I completed my 15th marathon and I have completed a number of the runDisney Challenge races and even an ultra distance run.
However, I never even considered a triathlon. I don’t know what made me finally decide but in late 2014 I signed up for my first triathlon, the New Jersey State Triathlon for the Olympic distance in July 2015. My problem was that I hadn’t been swimming in years and I needed a lot of work. I ended up freaking out a few weeks before the race and stepping back my distance to the sprint triathlon as I was really nervous for the swim. I did conquer the swim in my first triathlon but unfortunately the race did not turn out as planned. It was cancelled due to a lightning storm mid race. I quickly rebounded by signing up for another sprint distance a couple of weeks later and finally completed a triathlon. I followed up that after some encouragement (peer pressure) by a number of work colleagues to sign up for another local sprint triathlon which I successfully completed. Okay, my triathlons were over. Done. Complete…Or so I thought.
Competing in the Medford Lakes Colony Sprint Triathlon last August.
Some of my friends were talking about doing longer distance triathlons and a few were actively talking about half iron and full iron distance races. Around the same time they announced a new 70.3 distance race down in Atlantic City, NJ and I was considering that, however, it was a little costly and the timing didn’t work out. I also lacked the ability to swim far enough at the time (or so I thought) and I only owned a hybrid bike which I knew wouldn’t get me through a longer distance race. Speaking to my friend Bob, he mentioned that he had signed up for a smaller sized 70.3 race up in the Hudson Valley. It was also held on a Saturday so it wouldn’t take up a full weekend away and it was a good value (about the same price of a runDisney half marathon). I looked into it and thought maybe…I just had to convince my Wife. Challenge accepted!
Somewhere somehow my Wife was informed (probably by my Sister-in-law) that triathlons involved swimming in shark infested waters. I had to convince her that there were no sharks. All my previous sprint tri’s were in ponds or man-made lakes but she was still convinced there would be sharks. I explained that (at the time I signed up) the swim was held in a bend in the Hudson River and that there were no news reports of sharks in Upstate New York (bears maybe but not sharks). She then asked if I had enough life insurance and whether it was fully paid up. Seeing as my Father-in-law is our insurance agent I said we were covered and paid up. Finally she said I could do it as she knows there was no talking me out of it. So, in early November last year I signed up for my first 70.3 race, the HITS Kingston, NY Triathlon.
Now that I was signed up I found a half iron distance training plan that seemed to fit into my schedule from Endurance Works, I joined LA Fitness so I could go swimming regularly (the plan called for at least 3 swims per week, I subscribed to a swim training plan (Tri Swim Coach) and purchased a road bike (with all my saved up gift cards and a some birthday money) from my local bike store (Guy’s Bicycles). The training plan fit in perfectly between the New Jersey Marathon and the actual race. I steadily built up my swim distance and endurance in the pool and got used to sitting on that bike saddle for a few hours. By the time the race approached I felt that I was ready, nervous…but ready.
One final thing I needed to take care of was a wetsuit. I hadn’t used a wetsuit for any of the sprint distance tri’s I had done last year but based upon the distance it was recommended that I take advantage of the extra buoyancy a suit would provide me and so not wanting to jump into a big expense straight away I decided to rent a wetsuit. I ended up renting from a company based in Florida called Tri Wetsuit Rentals. The owner, Mike, was very helpful in answering my questions about sizing and suggested a couple of suits and even said that in the (unlikely) event that I lose some weight before, all I had to do was call before the suit was shipped in late June and let him know.
I had my first minor freak out when the wetsuit shipped but got lost by the US Postal service for about a week. I could see from the tracking information that it was close but it had gone via multiple post offices including my local post office more than once before it was finally delivered exactly one week before I was due to leave for the race. Mike was very helpful throughout and we had a ‘Plan B’ to send a replacement but thankfully it wasn’t required. Unfortunately I missed my last opportunity to try out the suit in an open water swim with the Bucks County Tri Club as the suit arrived too late. I wouldn’t get a chance to try the suit in the water before race day. I did watch a few YouTube videos in advance of receiving the wetsuit (some more helpful than others) on how to get into and out of a wetsuit, none of which helped prepare me for the full body workout that was putting one on without any help!!! It was a struggle the first time but after a couple of attempts I found a method that worked best for me.
For someone who has been overweight most of their life, having Orca emblazoned across your chest isn’t exactly flattering.
When my Wife saw this she had a field day with orca related jokes…
Thanks honey for all your support…
Race weekend finally arrived. I had been in touch with my friend Bob over the weeks leading up to the race and we had planned to meet at the staging area (Williams Lake) and get a quick open water swim and then grab lunch before the mandatory athletes’ meeting that afternoon.
Having taken a vacation day from work I packed up my car and headed (via a quick stop at my chiropractor for a last-minute alignment check) on my way to Kingston, NY.
On my way. 70.3 or bust!
Thankfully it was a smooth and easy ride up. About 30 minutes out from my destination I pulled over at services to grab a drink and a snack before the last leg of the journey and happened to bump into Bob who was also on his way up to meet me. I followed him the rest of the way to the race area and we quickly set about getting ready for a swim. Bob gave me a couple of tips on putting on the wet suit and we headed down to the water. It was a hot and sunny day and the water temperature was really nice. It was time for my first wet suit swim…I let Bob go first.
Arriving at the race site. This confirmed we were in the right place.
The finish line just a day away.
Williams Lake. The buoys were being set up as we arrived.
Bob went first. We planned to swim out and back to the first buoy.
Not nervous at all…
I ventured out. Bob advised me to go a little slower than I would in the pool to keep my heart rate down as you can quickly overheat in a wetsuit. Once I started swimming it did feel a little weird and there were a couple of anxious moments early on but I followed his advice and I set out to the buoy, circled around it and came back. One thing that was very evident from my swim is that my sighting in the water needs a heck of a lot of improvement…that would be evident the following day as well. As you can see from the GPS map below, this was supposed to be a simple out and back, i.e. pretty much a straight line. Not quite.
Not the best sense of direction
I did it. A little out of breath but I got it done.
Even though it was a short swim I felt comfortable in the wetsuit, the water temperature was warm but not too warm and the spring fed lake was clear (you could see your hands in front of your face!).
After we both completed the swim we stayed to talk to a few of the people setting up and looked around the staging area. This was a small race to be sure. There were 5 events going on the next day – full distance, half distance, Olympic distance, sprint distance and an open distance.
Hanging the suit up to dry
The packet pickup tent
Swim course map – Two loops around the lake
Bike route around the Ashokan Reservoir
The updated run course
A small merchandise tent who made custom shirts on request (more on that later)
When I had signed up for the race originally it was a two-day event. The swim was supposed to be in a bend in the Hudson River in Kingston, NY with the full and half distance being held on the Saturday and all other races being held on Sunday. Back in February it was announced that the location was moving to Williams Lake in Rosendale and that it would be a one day event with the races staged at 4 different times during the day (the full and half would start together).
After the swim we went to pick up our race packets. I have to say that the staff were all very friendly. The staff took time to ask if we were okay and were happy to chat and answer questions.
Bob and I headed into Rosendale and had lunch at a small cafe with lots of vegetarian options (perfect for me) and chatted over lunch. Bob showed me how to use my Garmin 910 in multisport mode which I hadn’t really tried before. We then headed back a few minutes before the Race Director started the athletes meeting.
Tom Struzzieri, the founder and CEO of HITS, was there to talk us through each leg of the event, the how to’s of the transition area and the weather outlook for the next day. He shared the plans for the aid stations and explained what would be provided even down to how many scoops of Heed would be in the pre-made water bottles on the bike rides (so that we had an idea how much nutrition to carry and could take in on the route).
The race director giving the pre-race athletes meeting
The weather overnight was forecast with a storm and lots of rain. As the race wasn’t too big most people decided not to check in their bikes the night before so we could keep all our equipment dry and bring it the next day.
After the meeting Bob and I took a walk through the transition areas and walked the start of the run course. As the course had changed from the original location I hadn’t seen the new map. The course was described as an initial run out, a loop through a cave (a bat cave…) and then a double out and back along the Wallkill Valley Rail Trail across the Rosendale Trestle Bridge.
Everyone was provided with their own individual transition box. It was spacious compared to other events I have taken part in and the stool they provided was a nice touch.
The exit from the swim to transition
The exit from transition to the bike course.
And back to transition. You can see from the debris on the side of the transition that this whole area is currently under development. This should make the site much more attractive and with added features in the coming years.
The view back into the transition at the start of the run
I hadn’t realized before now but as soon as we started walking the course we saw it was a proper trail, i.e. not paved…mud, rocks, sticks and roots…and a bat cave.
Yes…that’s a trail.
I will point out that this is ‘before’ the heavy rain that fell overnight.
Yup, that’s a cave.
They said there were bats in side.
I just looked straight ahead to the exit and didn’t look deep into the cave. No need to cause a kerfuffle with the locals…
I’m ready for the next day. I may have to change my outfit though.
Bob and I decided around 4pm to head back to our respective lodgings (I was about 15 minutes away in a hotel in Kingston and he was staying with family about 30 minutes south) and so we wished each other a relaxing evening and said we would see each other bright and early the next day.
By the way, you may notice from the above picture that I am wearing a ‘Team Up! Autism Speaks’ shirt. Since 2013 I have run a number of events for this charity and this was the first year I had missed running the Walt Disney World Marathon (or Challenge) with them. Over the last three years I have raised close to $13,000 for the cause. As this was to be a special event for me I decided to dedicate my race to continue to raise funds for them and I signed up through their Team Up! Your Way with the goal of raising $1,000. I’m pleased to say that in addition to completing my event (spoiler alert) I was able to meet my goal. As of the date of posting this recap I have raised a total of $1,092.
I headed to my hotel in Kingston and moved all my gear (not packing light) into my room on the second floor.
My two-wheeled roommate for the night.
I quickly looked through my race packet to make sure I had everything and decided to find somewhere local for an early dinner. As I was traveling on my own I asked the front desk at the hotel for places to eat and was recommended the Olympia Diner across the street. Well, I love a good diner so I was happy to head over and see what they had. Although the diner was just across the street there was a huge downpour and I ended up driving over. Glad I didn’t leave my bike outdoors overnight.
After a meal of gazpacho and spaghetti marinara, I followed my usual pre-race routine…a cookie (unfortunately not oatmeal raisin)…and headed back to the hotel and started getting ready for the next morning with a goal of getting some sleep.
My pre-race ritual. Stick with what works, right?
I unpacked all my gear for transition and laid it all out for one final check. As you will notice from the pictures below I used flash cards in my shoes to remind me of the steps I would need to remember in transition if I was not thinking too clearly in real-time the next day.
I think that’s everything.
Cut me some slack…I’m 44 with two kids. Sometimes I cannot even remember their names.
At least I didn’t have to tell myself which wrist to put it on.
With all my gear repacked I took a hot shower and put myself to bed around 8pm hoping to get as much sleep as I could.
My Fitbit shows that I got just under 7 hours of sleep, waking up just before my 4AM alarm (one of three that I had set just in case). I made myself a cup of coffee and tried to remain as relaxed as possible. I grabbed my pre-race Powerbar for breakfast and checked my emails, other messages and the weather before getting all my gear ready. As expected, my Wife sent me a message wishing me all the best in her own way.
Thanks again honey…
My training plan sent me this message to my inbox.
I headed out around 5:15AM to the race site. There had been plenty of rain overnight and you could the result of the storm as there was quite a bit of debris on the road. I was a little nervous about riding in the rain on my road bike tires. I already had concerns about the elevation of the course and making the cut off time (I hadn’t trained too much on hills). I had never ridden on wet roads before.
When I got to the race site the course had been impacted by the rain too. Although the temperature had cooled considerably the parts of the parking areas were under water. I arrived as cars and trucks were being towed out after getting stuck in the mud. I moved my car further away on some higher ground and started to unpack.
Cars being towed out.
The aftermath. I hadn’t considered what it would do to the running trail yet.
I’m here, the bike was pumped up and so was I.
On Thursday night before I left I decided at the last-minute to grab a few kitchen trash bags to pack up any wet and dirty gear after the race. I’m glad I did as there was more rain scheduled for later in the day. I’m so glad I had them with me as when I got to transition it was very wet underfoot (and squishy) and so I used one of the bags as a waterproof barrier between the ground and my transition set up. With the extra bags I wrapped up my bike and running gear to protect them from the rain that was predicted. That was a good move.
My home base for the next few hours.
I ate my Honey Stinger waffle for a last-minute fuel top up and after a couple of bathroom breaks I got my swim gear ready and my wetsuit on and made my way through the transition to the edge of the lake.
Everyone getting ready in transition.
Ready to suit up. See you in a few hours.
As we got to the beach for the final race announcements before the start the race director asked that due to the road conditions that we are extra vigilant on the bikes and announced that they had people out on the course doing clean up where ever needed so that conditions would be as best as they could get them for us for the bike.
The race was scheduled to start at 7AM. The full and half distance athletes were due to go off at the same time. The full distance athletes would swim four times around the buoys and the half distance athletes twice. My plan was to stay steady and smooth and try to keep my heart rate down. As the race started I stayed at the back of the pack and waited until almost everyone was in the water. I didn’t plan on getting into a mess right out of the gate.
The temperature was great, a couple of degrees cooler than yesterday, and my plan was to keep a steady rhythm. My sighting wasn’t perfect…I did veer of course a couple of times but it got better as I started to get into a groove. I actually found myself passing a few people. I could feel the difference that a wetsuit provides. It was a definite help. My confidence was building as I rounded the first loop and I was able to maintain the same rhythm on my second loop. I still had a couple of sighting issues but if you look at my map below I didn’t do too bad. Ultimately my distance swam was 1.4 miles not 1.2. Not sure if it was my bad sighting or the GPS trying to grab a signal which led to the difference but I was pretty happy.
The official results had me at 54:32 for the swim. I was pleased with that. Anything under an hour for that distance was a win for me. I actually got out the water and wasn’t too out of breath. As I got out the water the race had ‘strippers’, volunteers to help you get out the wetsuit. On a side note I mentioned that in the car the next day when I was talking to my wife. She was quite taken aback…however, two little voices from the back of the car then asked “Daddy, what’s a stripper?” Oops. I explained in triathlon terms. Move along. Nothing to see here.
As I got out the water there was a little light rain. I’m glad I had my gear wrapped up. I was even more glad for the stool. I was a more tired from the swim than I thought I would be. I dried off my legs and my feet, covered them in talc and popped on my Injinji socks (not the best at helping me rush through transition). 8:02 in transition. Not good but I had a 56 mile ride ahead of me and I wanted to make sure I was ready (my longest ride previous to this was 52 miles on a bike trainer). I quickly ate an energy gel and grabbed my bike and headed out.
Once out of transition and on the bike I started slowly. I started out on the small chain ring so that I wasn’t beating up my legs early into the ride. I didn’t get out of the small chain ring for the first 8 miles.
The bike route
Bike elevation chart
The first big hill (big for me) was around mile 6. Thankfully I was able to get up the hill and knew that somewhere on the back of the course I would probably make up some time coming down the same hill. My cadence and speed were not very fast for the first hour. It was really a matter of me getting up the hills for the ride around the reservoir. My goal was to maintain an average speed over 14mph so that I would make the four hour cut off. After the first hour it wasn’t looking good…13mph. I settled into a rhythm on the bike and as the course flattened out in areas I was able to make up some time. There was light rain at the time and I had to stop a couple of times to wipe clear my glasses as they were getting wetter and wetter.
Around mile 20 the heavens opened. This was rain. The real stuff. Not the wet misty type that had been going on from the start. It was a slog for the next 20 or so miles as the rain continued. For someone who was nervous about riding in the rain and worried about the bike cut off this was not a good combination.
What I can commend the race organizers for is that despite the conditions out there, each turn on the course was clearly marked out or was manned by police or volunteers who stood out in the rain the whole time. For a race with such a small field it must have seemed a very arduous task and I fully appreciate all the volunteers that day.
There were two aid stations, one of which we passed twice, for a total of three stops. The first was around mile 12 just after we had climbed a big hill. I made a quick porta potty stop there (obviously I had been hydrating to this point) and grabbed some more fluids. The aid stations provided Hammer gels, Heed and water. The second stop was around mile 30 I think. When I got there the rain was heavy. The table was set up for a bottle exchange. I stopped and poured a bottle of Heed mix in with my existing bottle of Heed and moved on as there was no point in hanging around too long with the rain.
One thing that I will take away from the ride is that I am weakest on the bike. I have definitely become more comfortable in the seat but I did most of my riding either on the bike trainer or outside in an enclosed park loop with little elevation. It showed. I need to do more hill riding and get my cadence up. It’s all too easy to ride for three hours watching movies but I really need to know how to maintain a high cadence with my legs and how and when to push. I also need to learn how to properly fuel while riding. I kept to my plan on taking in an energy gel every 45 minutes but I had to pull over each time for fear of falling off the bike. I was able to maintain my drinking every 15-20 minutes just slowing down while I used a bottle.
The route along the reservoir itself was beautiful…well at least what I could make out through the rain and clouds was beautiful. There seemed to be a lot of ‘S bend’ curves as the road travelled around the reservoir and by this point we were sharing the road with cars. We had travelled down a major road (Route 213) earlier, however, there was a wide shoulder and although cars and trucks were zipping by, there was plenty of space for riding.
I played leapfrog along the bike course with a couple of other riders almost the whole way. I didn’t catch up with many people nor was I passed too often other than by participants in the full distance race on their much more expensive and faster tri bikes.
Finally, with about 15 miles to go the rain ceased and the skies cleared a little or maybe just the clouds got thinner. Either way the last 15 miles were more comfortable weather wise. My socks inside my shoes were soaked through by the rain and so I had to endure the sound of squelching for the last hour but I figured it was a small price to pay. My average speed was now over 14.5mph so I knew I would make it under the time limit and I still had a couple of large downhill rides.
The roads were still damp on the reverse trip down to the transition area but I flew down them (white knuckled). At one point I hit over 36mph. I’m not one for riding roller coasters…and this to me felt almost as freaky. I guess that’s another thing I have to get used to in training.
I finally made it back into transition with a time of 3:48:19 (official split was 3:48:58). Not great by any means but a) not last, and b) under the cut off. I now have a baseline for a 1.2 mile open water swim and a 56 mile bike ride (although my actual GPS distance was just over 55 miles).
On returning to transition after the rain I was glad to have kept my gear wrapped up in those trash liners and was extremely pleased that I had packed a second pair of socks. My feet were soaked through and I pretty much had to repeat almost the same transition that I had after the swim (minus the wetsuit). Dry off, talc on feet and the struggle back into the Injinji socks!!! Time in second transition was 6:01. Slow but typically it would just be changing shoes and swapping my helmet for a visor. I took the opportunity to take another energy gel before heading out on the run.
I’ve done many brick work outs in training (bike to run transition) but never after a 56 mile ride nor anything longer than a 30 minute run. This was going to be interesting.
As I headed out to start the run the ground was more soaked than before. As I ran up the hill to the first aid station I was told that the ‘bat cave’ was wet and to be careful. That was an understatement. I hadn’t even reached the cave yet and I was already having to be careful with my footing. The trail was soggy and puddle filled. In fact there were a couple of places early on where I had to walk for fear of slipping in the mud. I didn’t expect to run my normal pace for the half marathon (my PR is 1:51) but I also didn’t expect my first mile split to be 11.36min/mile.
When I had walked the course the previous day I wasn’t wearing sunglasses so when I got to the cave I could kind of see my way through with the little daylight that was streaming through the entrance and exit. I was also walking. Today I was running and wearing sunglasses. BIG difference. Once I hit the cave I could barely see. I decided to take the higher ground on the left of the cave on the assumption that it might be drier as the water would flow down to the lower side. What I didn’t know about or see was that there were rocks on that side. I tripped…twice. While I didn’t wipe out I was a little shaken and pretty much ended up walking through the cave rather than run (hence the slow 1st mile).
Once out the cave I was back in the daylight and it was then just the double out and back to run. The ground was still soaked, soft, slippy and puddled in many places. My nice clean shoes didn’t stay that way for very long. I stepped in a few places where I went down into muddy water to the tops of my shoes. I had been glad I had some dry socks on to start with but they were soon beginning to get damp from the ground below.
The run was a double out and back.
I passed the first aid station again (I would see it two more times) and the folks manning the table were very cheery and supportive. Each aid station stocked water, Heed, flat Coke, chips, orange slices, candy and cookies. At first I drank only water and Heed at each station (there were another two out on the course) but as it was getting hotter and I was beginning to feel more tired so I started to dunk a cup of cold water over my head at each station too.
I passed Bob on my way out the first time. He had a much stronger ride than me and was at least 30 minutes ahead of me. Just before the third aid station we ran across the Rosendale Trestle Bridge. If you are scared of heights you may want to rethink this race. The bridge was wide, sturdy and safe but quite a way up.
Rosendale Trestle Bridge (picture from the HITS Facebook page)
An aerial shot of the bridge on a much sunnier day
It was a spectacular setting and the benefit of running mostly in the shade kept temperatures down. It wasn’t the sunniest of afternoons as there was still a lot of cloud cover but it did feel cooler in the shade.
The turnaround was about a mile past the bridge and at that point I was taking my time negotiating points on the trail that were like mud rivers. Nevertheless it was a keep moving forward mentality. By this stage I had been on the go for over 5 hours and counting.
On my way back to the first aid station (and turnaround for the second leg) I took another energy gel to give myself a boost. I needed something at that point. At the aid station one of the volunteers suggested I take in some flat Coke. I had heard that ultra runners used this as a quick sugar energy boost and as I had just taken a gel I decided to pass this time around but as I progressed on my second out and back I decided to try something new (yeah…during a race…smart!). Luckily I had no bad reaction to ingesting the flat Coke. I haven’t had any soda since quitting last August so this was a bit weird. I had sworn off soda and now I couldn’t get enough… I was still pouring water over my head at each aid station but I was now substituting the Coke for the Heed just to keep me going.
It was at this point that I started playing the math game. I had no goal time other than to finish somewhere between 7-7.5 hours and I knew that my bike leg would eat up a great deal of that time. I was now looking at my Garmin every few minutes to see how much distance and time was left. I had seen Bob on the second out and back as I was going out and he was coming back. I figured he would be done before I reached the turnaround for the second time.
As I rounded the turnaround for the last time I began to realize that I had just under 5 miles to go. I could do this. I was going to do this. Having once run 39.3 miles in 7 hours I knew I had the endurance, but that was straight running and now I was beginning to feel a soreness in my left quad and hamstring from the bike. Everything else felt good other than tired and achy shoulders. I just put one foot in front of the other, walked around the muddy parts and powered on until I saw the first aid station for the final time.
Once I hit the aid station it was just a small up and down hill to the finish line. This was not a fast half marathon for me by any means but I was going to be under 2:20 and that meant I would be under 7:20 total time. I just had to make it another half mile to the finish.
Rounding the corner to the finish I could see Bob standing by the finish line and he had his camera out taking photos of me coming in. I ran up and gave him a fist bump and turned towards the finish line where to my surprise my Wife’s Aunt had driven down with her family from Albany (about an hour north) to meet me at the finish line. What a wonderful gesture. Totally unexpected. I got so excited I jumped high in the air as I crossed the finish line. Having family and friends meet me at the finish really lifted my spirits and took away any tiredness I was feeling.
Bob took this photo of me running into the finish
Woohoo….70.3 DONE!!! (Thanks for the photo Francine)
Hey, I know you!
Let me stop my Garmin so I can give you a High Five
I arrived during the awards ceremony so, as had been my luck all through the event, I missed having a photo taken by the official photographer. Luckily, between Bob and his wife Francine and my family I was able to get some photos at the finish line. A volunteer handed me my medal and a bottle of water and I stopped to catch my breath and take some finish line photos with everyone.
Nice to have a family meet me at the finish (Thank you Nadine, Steve and Benjamin)
Bob and I. He looks a little more rested than me.
Bob making sure I saved my multisport event file.
My official finish time was 7 hours 15 minutes. Not great…but not last. I did my first half iron distance triathlon and finished smiling. That’s enough for me. Will I do another 70.3? Probably, but I’m going to enjoy this one for a long time.
I said goodbye to Bob who had been waiting to see me finish and went over to transition to pack up my gear. My family wanted to take me to lunch (a late lunch) before I had to drive home. There wasn’t much food left by the time I had finished. I was told they were going to order more food (pizza) within the hour for the final finishers and for the full distance finishers. I decided that I would be better off having a full meal to refuel.
So much for my fancy shoes…
…and fancy socks. Just a little muddy
In transition I used the changing tents to put on some dry clothes. Those trash bags came in handy as I threw all my wet gear and towels into them to carry to the car. Before I left transition I sat down and took it all in. I had just finished my first 70.3. It was a different feeling than finishing my first marathon. That was a runners high which lasted days. This was more a mix of joy and relief. I tried to explain to someone a couple of days later that sometimes when I run I can zone out and just get into a rhythm until I am near the finish line. With the triathlon it’s a matter of focus, concentration and technique. You cannot really zone out doing a triathlon. You’ll drown or crash!!! I’m pleased to say I did neither.
I quickly called my parents in the UK to let them know I was done. I’m 44 and I still call my mother to let her know I’m okay 🙂
Once I was dressed, the car packed and the bike racked we headed to Kingston where we had a late lunch/early dinner at an Irish pub. Those were the best fish and chips I’d had all day! I drank lots of water to rehydrate and a few cups of coffee to keep me awake before I said goodbye to the family and headed for my three-hour drive home…with a HUGE smile on my face.
The guy on the left in 2010 has just finished a half iron distance traithlon in 2016
I really enjoyed the event. HITS put on a professional, supportive and friendly event. For anyone dipping their toes into longer distance triathlons I would recommend one of their events. Their communication was responsive in the weeks leading up to the event, the staff were friendly the whole weekend and it was just a relaxed informal atmosphere the whole weekend. They took care of the athletes and it was good value for money compared to some of the other big race organizations out there. Check out their events list.
Oh, by the time I got to the finish line the merchandise tent was being taken down. I wasn’t able to get a finisher shirt that I had spoken to the supplier about the day before. I was waiting until after so not to jinx myself. The owner gave me his card and told me to call him the following week and he would customize any shirts that I wanted and ship them to me. Pricing was very reasonable so I followed up and ordered a customized long sleeve and short sleeve ‘70.3 Finisher’ shirt. Nice.
That night I had a pretty good long deep sleep.
Something like this. Even my kids let me sleep in.
In my inbox the next day was this message from my training plan. I didn’t need telling twice 🙂
Thank you for sticking with me for this (longer than normal) race recap. At least this took you less than 7 hours to read.
Back in 2010 I set out on my journey with a ‘Couch to 5K’ program not knowing whether I would succeed in even completing the program. I set foot into the work gym and started a 9 week program. That was, to me, quite a commitment and something that I had tried countless times before. We’ve all said, “One day I’m going to…” or “This time I’m going to…” but I never stuck with anything.
July 4, 2010 – a month before I started running
I guess 5 years shows that I am pretty committed. It wasn’t just trying something out and seeing if I could do it. I finally reached a point where I knew I had to do something and it was more than just a program, it was a lifestyle change.
It took a lot to go back after the first day. I hurt. Bad. I could barely walk down the stairs that first week. Shin splints really hurt. On top of that I couldn’t get through the program easily. I ended up repeating a couple of weeks and my 9 week program ended up being 11 weeks. I tried my first outdoor run in September that year mid way through the program and struggled…badly. It got better. I didn’t quit. I went out and bought a pair of shoes from a proper running store. Never in my life had I ever paid that much for a pair of shoes. I don’t think anything of it now (although I’m always looking for a sale or a discount!!!)
About 3 weeks into the program I knew that running alone wasn’t going to be the answer and so I started a weight loss program. I wrote everything down/recorded it all on my iPhone app. To this date I am still recording my daily food intake using the same iPhone app. I’m almost at 5 years with that too. It’s more than a commitment, it’s a lifestyle choice.
In the first year I suffered from a knee injury, I worked through physical therapy and became a better runner. I try my best not to over train (although it’s tough as I get antsy sitting still for too long). I get regular checkups with a chiropractor and an annual physical. I can see the positive change it has done for my health. That more than anything else is its own reward.
So where am I now?
55 pounds lost. 12 Full Marathons with two more in the next few months. 16 Half Marathons with one more in the next few months. 3 Duathlons and (almost) 1 triathlon (with another this month). Countless 5Ks and 10Ks. 1 ultra distance run and 3 years of runDisney Challenges. 7,277 miles recorded. Countless pairs of shoes worn.
The statistics are meaningless against the satisfaction that somehow I am doing the best for my health and for my family’s well-being. Don’t get me wrong, the achievements have taken hard work but have been some of the most fun times I’ve ever had picking up great friends along the way (shout out to my Mickey Milers). You cannot do all this alone.
I’m in a good place. I’m trying to stay healthy enough to do this as long as I can and trying to set a good example for my boys. I have been fortunate enough to have been joined by my dear wife who will be reaching her 5 year ‘Runniversary’ next February.
Completing my first Full Marathon – Philadelphia 2011
Finishing our most recent marathon together – Pittsburgh 2015
Crossing the finish line of the ‘Chasing the Unicorn’ Marathon – August 2014
Completing 39.3 miles in one day to raise funds for ‘Give Kids The World’
Running in EPCOT at the 2013 Disney Family 5K
With my ‘Incredible’ wife
Life is good.
I’ve left the old me behind – November 2014
Here’s to more years of good health and happiness. It’s a good place to be.
Thank you for reading and coming along on this journey with me.