Trip to Atlanta and a visit to the Phiddipides store

I had the opportunity to take a trip out of town for business last week. The company I work for recently purchased another company in Atlanta and this was my first opportunity to go beyond video conferences and meet everyone in person. I was fortunate that one of my new colleagues was a runner (and a Disney runner too) and she provided me with some tips on places to run before I arrived. Coupled with a few suggestions from other Atlanta based friends I was looking forward to the trip.

My hotel was about 1 mile from Piedmont Park in the midtown area of the city.

Map of Piedmont Park

Map of Piedmont Park

Piedmont Park

Piedmont Park

Atlanta skyline from the park

Atlanta skyline from the park

The park was magnificent to run through. The pictures above are not mine as I was running around 5am in the dark. Atlanta was a little hillier than I had anticipated and it was a nice trek to and from the park (a mile each way from the hotel). I ran a slightly different route each day through the park. In all I ran in the park 5 times in 4 days I was there. I tend to run a little more than usual when I travel for work as I tend to eat out more often and I need the calories. I had actually run for the previous 3 days prior to the trip so 8 runs in 7 days finally took its toll and I took the Friday off and slept a little longer.

I finally got the chance to see the park in the daytime for my last run out there. Knowing that I was heading to Atlanta and it being the home of Jeff Galloway I looked into visiting his running store, Phiddipides. I noticed that they had group runs from the store every week so I called up and asked for the details and planned a trip to the store to join in the run.

Meeting Jeff Galloway

Meeting Jeff Galloway at the 2014 Walt Disney World Marathon expo

I got to the store a little early to take a look around and I got to see some of Jeff’s Olympic memorabilia and other souvenirs. I’ve been following Jeff’s training methods since early 2011 and have run all my marathons using his run/walk technique. I was lucky to get to meet Jeff at this year’s Walt Disney World Marathon weekend. I had tried to meet him in 2012 and 2013 but never timed it right at the expo. I figured Jeff wouldn’t be in the store hanging out with his schedule (I was right) but I still managed to end up buying a souvenir Phiddipides t-shirt…I’m such a groupie.

Group run from Phiddipides

Group run from Phiddipides

Jeff Galloway's 1972 Olympic Kit

Jeff Galloway’s 1972 Olympic Kit

Jeff Galloway training with Steve Prefontaine and Jack Bacheler

Jeff Galloway training with Steve Prefontaine and Jack Bacheler

I’m only about 6 weeks or so away from the 2014 New Jersey Marathon and my training is reaching its peak right now in terms of mileage. I was a little over my set mileage last week with all the additional running I did (although I did manage to eat quite a bit) and also had a 20 mile run on Sunday morning following the trip. I have been experiencing a little foot pain with my right foot which was another reason I took a rest day on the Friday. In fact I was a little worried for the long run on Sunday that I actually took my iPhone out with me on the run to listen to podcasts and try and distract myself from any discomfort. I haven’t run with headphones outdoors for over 2 years. I got through the run a little slower than planned and although I didn’t feel too much discomfort it did take a bit of extra effort to get through the run.

With under 6 weeks left of training (and yet another predicted snow storm this week) I am trying to keep my running to the training plan and not do too much extra. I am also going to try out the new Brooks Transcend shoes which are a Stability Plus shoe. They are built on the same shoe last that the Brooks Adrenalines (my usual shoe) are built upon but provide more cushioning and incorporate a new stability technology. We shall see. They do look cool though.

Brooks Transcend

Brooks Transcend

My race calendar is starting to fill up. I haven’t ‘raced’ (or ‘run’) an event since I came back from Walt Disney World. As of today I have 4 races in the next 5 weeks. My schedule is as follows:

3/30 – Love Run Half Marathon – Philadelphia, PA

4/6 – Hot Chocolate 15K – Philadelphia, PA

4/13 – Bucks County Half Marathon – Newtown, PA

4/27 – New Jersey Marathon – Oceanport, NJ

As I said in my previous post I am running this year with the ‘Mickey Milers’ charity running team to raise funds for the ‘Give Kids The World Village‘ in Orlando, Florida. Please visit my personal page, take a look at the cause and, if you can, please make a small donation.

Mickey Milers Running Team

Mickey Milers Running Team

Every bit helps. Thank you in advance and thank you for reading.

2013 Philadelphia Marathon – race recap

2013 Philadelphia Marathon

2013 Philadelphia Marathon

This weekend my wife Shari and I ran the Philadelphia Marathon. This is a very special event for me as it was my very first marathon back in 2011, it was also where in 2012 I broke 4 hours in a marathon for the first time as well is being my ‘local’ race (I live in the suburbs just north of Philadelphia in Bucks County, PA). So this was going to be my 3rd consecutive Philadelphia Marathon. It was also the 20th year of the current marathon event so it was sure to be special.

2011 Philadelphia Marathon My First Marathon

2011 Philadelphia Marathon
My First Marathon

2012 Philadelphia Marathon My First Sub 4 Hour Marathon

2012 Philadelphia Marathon
My First Sub 4 Hour Marathon

My wife ran the Half Marathon in 2012 and felt that the atmosphere for the event and the crowds she saw might encourage her to run the Full in the future. After completing her first Full marathon in Walt Disney World in January of this year I convinced her (not that she needed much convincing) to run Philadelphia and I signed us up when registration opened on April 1st.

Both Shari and I trainined using Hal Higdon’s training plans, Novice 2 for Shari and Intermediate 2 for myself. This was the 3rd time I have used this plan and I’m comfortable with the training level right now. I said to Shari as we approached the race that I had no goal other than to run with her and enjoy the race. I had nothing to prove here and just wanted to savor the time. I was probably the most relaxed before a marathon I had ever been (okay, I haven’t done that many!).

As race weekend approached, we, along with everyone else, watched the upcoming weather forecast which seemed to change daily. Even the day before the weather forecast was different than on the actual day. This was Fall in the North East and we had the week before experienced temperatures in the high 20s/low 30s so although it looked warmer they were predicted a little fog and rain. As it turned out it was a glorious day but more on that later.

Our first stop was on Saturday at the expo. As with the previous year it was held at the Philadelphia Convention Center in downtown Philadelphia. We headed down with our two boys with the plan that we would grab our bibs and take turns sitting with the boys in the Kids Zone while each of us took a look around the expo. The Kids Zone has been a life saver in the past and we only wish there had been one at the Walt Disney World Marathon expo back in January (that was not a fun time at the expo…)

The expo itself was a little odd. As we walked in there was the usual Philadelphia Marathon banner and we took our regular photos by the banner (actually our 6 year old took the photos so we look really tall). As we got through the banner there was a ‘hand written’ sign pointing us towards packet pickup. That was kind of strange. A little amateur looking considering the size of the race.

Welcome

Welcome

It looked a bit last minute

It looked a bit last minute more as an afterthought for such a high profile part of race weekend.

No backing out now

No backing out now

The other thing we noticed about this years expo was the setup seemed different. Usually we grabbed our bibs, went through the merchandise section and then out into the main expo. This year it was a little more like rats in a maze. I don’t know how else to describe it. The packet pickup was easy in itself but getting to there had a couple of turns and you were partly going through the expo at the same time. It was crowded and not easy to manouver with a stroller as some people were in line, some people were passing through and some people were looking at booths. Of all the races I have taken part in this year this was the first race where nobody asked to see my ID to confirm who I was when picking up my race packet. Given all the extra messaging around the increased need for security at the event no-one checked our bags going into the expo either. Strange. That would however change on Sunday.

As has become the norm for races since Boston, the race organizers provided clear bags that would be the only ones allowed at the bag check. They were at least a decent size and they actually looked quite cool, mesh on one side and clear plastic on the other printed with the name of the race. The shirts this year were a light blue and I liked it. It had the words of ’20 YEARS FOR THE LOVE OF RUNNING’ written on the front with the course map on the back (as in prior years).

The expo seemed a little smaller than in previous years too. Looking at the map of the expo it appeared that the booths were all perfectly in line but in reality it wasn’t as if you could walk in a straight line through the expo and I got turned around a couple of times not knowing which direction I had just come from. My wife thought the same. It wasn’t the worst expo but it wasn’t the best and we kind of had expectations for his race being the 20th anniversary event.

Great idea. Every expo should have one

Great idea. Every expo should have one

The scene at the Bib and Packet pickup area.

The scene at the Bib and Packet pickup area.

I did stop by the Hoka booth as this was the first time I had seen the Hoka shoes close up. I tried on a pair of the Bondi model shoes but I really need to have the opportunity to try them on a run to see if they live up to the good things I’ve heard. They sure look different though.

Hoka One One - not the sure for your minimalist friends

Hoka One One – not the shoe for your minimalist friends

Once we were done at the expo we headed home for an early dinner with the boys and to get ready for race day. As usual we laid out our gear the night before. As we were running as a couple we tried to coordinate colors…because you have to! Also, we looked over the race guide that was in our packets I was pleasantly surprized/shocked to see a picture of me in the program. We are not new to this free publicity as my wife made the program of the 2013 Walt Disney World Marathon Weekend program and we are on the banner of the Atlantic City April Fool’s Half Marathon but the picture of me was from last year’s marathon. As you may know from reading my blog I use Jeff Galloway’s run/walk/run method to good effect. The picture in the program was a picture of me walking…the only person walking in a picture of everyone else running…oh no!!! Still, I broke 4 hours in the marathon last year so whatever you think from the picture, the result was what I wanted and I can live with the embarassment 😉 My wife didn’t even notice it was me and she specifically looked for us in the program (thanks Honey).

A Purple Princess outfit

A Purple Princess outfit

Just a little hint of orange

Just a little hint of orange

Always check there is a camera near before you walk :-)

Always check there is a camera near before you take a walk break 🙂

Since the Boston Marathon bombing this year many races have increased the security around their events and this event was no different. Prior to race weekend there were updates on the website and in our race emails advising us of the increased security measures. The race organizers were setting up a security perimeter around the start line and check-in areas (the Benjamin Franklin Parkway). They advised everyone to get down early to get through security checks. My wife and I headed downtown at 4:45am for the 7am start time. We parked about 4 blocks away from the start line and headed toward the area. As we approached the Parkway we saw actually barriers into the starting area. We were funneled into chutes with my bag being checked at the start and end of the chute. At the start my bag was ok, but at the end of the chute just a few yards further away I was stopped because my bag contained a bottle of Powerade Zero which at 32 ounces was not permitted into the area. Only 12 ounces bottles were apparently acceptable…my wife made it through security with her 16 ounce bottle…grrrrr 😦

Military guards at a checkpoint to the Parkway

Guards at a checkpoint to the Parkway

Still annoyed about my loss of my Powerade Zero I was pretty annoyed when I saw plenty of people with Camelbak hydration packs and Gatorade bottles (I was beginning to believe it was an anti Coke product bias at this stage) we made a quick pit stop and then stretched out. We had brought our space blankets from last weeks Trenton Half Marathon to keep us warm at the start area as the temperatures were predicted to be in the 50s by start time. We walked a little further up towards the corrals and bag check and decided for one last pit stop before checking in our gear and heading to the corral. Wow. All I can say is wow. So, they increased registration this year to almost 30,000 runners and it seemed they had less port-a-potties than in prior years. We were in lines that zig-zagged up and back across the field. After being in line for over 30 minutes we had a minor mutiny on our hands and when we circle a tree to what seemed like the end of a line only to find it continue around again, so a few people in line just formed another line and monopolised two potties. Ugh. I didn’t want to start all that again so we joined the mutiny (although one lady in a parallel line gave us such a dirty look!!!) Not fun. We checked our bags and made it to the corrals just as the National Anthem was being sung. Start time was minutes away.

Waiting in our Corral

Waiting in our Corral

Ready, set....

Ready, set….

Our Corral was finally brought forward and given the word to ‘Go’. At the start line (and finish line) the Mayor of Philadelphia, Michael Nutter, is there to high five runners as they pass by. I’m sure not many big city Mayors come out to support the runners but it’s great that he does. Last year I got high fives at the start and finish. This year Bill ‘Boston Billy’ Rodgers was also at the start line giving high fives out. We tried for that but failed miserably as I didn’t spot him amongst the crowds. Oh well…I got a high five (and a good luck kiss) from my Wife which is way better.

The one thing that I will always say about this race is that it has great crowd support. From the start line to the finish line (with only a few exceptions in the second half of the race) the crowds a many people deep and very vocal. Awesome stuff. The race is very scenic taking in many sites and neighborhoods. The first half is a different course than the Rock and Roll Philadelphia Half Marathon which shares the same start and finish line area. Here is the course.

2013 Philadelphia Marathon Course Map

2013 Philadelphia Marathon Course Map

The course at the start and for the first few miles was pretty tight as we were running with the Half Marathoners as well as the streets in Center City Philadelphia being fairly narrow. There were a lot of straights to run in the first few miles and crowd support was there alongside us. One of my favorite areas is to run up South Street and Chestnut Street. There was a DJ out on South Street last year but none this year but that was okay, we came to run and were having our own little party anyway. Running up Chestnut Street is awesome. Imagine a long narrow tunnel of just people and then send a crowd running through them. A great atmostphere.

Running along Chestnut Street

Running along Chestnut Street

photo 4 (4)

Running along Chestnut Street

The run along Chestnut Street is almost 2.5 miles straight up. You pass by 30th Street Station and up past Drexel University to what is the first (and probably longest) hill of the race. Once you reach the top you run past lots of Frat and Sororety houses and around past the Philadelphia Zoo. Luckily the wind was blowing in the right direction and you couldn’t ‘smell’ the Zoo as I had in prior years 🙂 The students living in the houses were out in support (and I’m sure a little beer was on offer).

It was around this part of the race that Shari began feeling a little uncomfortable with her knee. She has a little IT band issue from time to time and this had set her back a bit missing a couple of long runs half way through her training. She pulled a small tube of icy/hot out of her SpiBelt and massaged some of it into her knee and onto her IT band (believe me, that SpiBelt is like Mary Poppins carpet bag…you wouldn’t believe the amount of stuff she was carrying in there). After a couple of stretches were were on our way. Shari was doing okay keeping together with me. She was following the run/walk interval that I had trained with even though she herself doesn’t train this way. We were using a 4:00/0:40 run/walk ratio and that broke things up well. We were averaging just a little more than 10 minute miles at this point and were feeling okay.

After the Zoo we had the second toughest hill (shorter and more intense) up to the Please Touch Museum (Memorial Hall) in Fairmount Park. Once you get past this hill the rest of the course is not anyway near as demanding (although you still have another 17 miles to go at this point). Shari mentioned to me that it was at this point in the Half Marathon last year that she felt it was a little tough but she was much better this year and was happy with how things were going. This was also the location of the first Clif Shot station. I had only packed 4 gels for the marathon (my strategy was to take a gel at miles 5, 10, 15 & 20) so I decided to grab an extra which I never usually do. We did go a little slower down the hill onto West River Drive but then held a steady pace up to the halfway point where we left the Half Marathoners at the finish line exit and looped around the front of the Philadelphia Art Museum just past the statue of Rocky Balboa (from the movie Rocky III).

Heading up West River Drive to the halfway point

Heading up West River Drive to the halfway point

Rocky

Rocky

The second half of the course is an out and back to Manyunk with a slight detour across the river and back to pick up a couple of miles in distance. It was at this stage that I feel like the race was on as we start seeing runners on their way back up to the finish line. We just missed the lead runner for the men’s race but saw the some of the elites running in as we were just starting mile 14. We also saw the first female runner on her way back in. It is always impressive to see how these folks leave it all on the course and their focus and determination in their eyes. I should also mention that we also saw Elvis…yes, you heard me right.

The King

The King

Interestingly enough there were two water stations very close together at this point in the course at miles 13 & 14 but then what seemed like a long gap before the next water stop at mile 17 at the second Clif Shot station. I could have done with a drink of water or Gatorade at this stage as the last water stop prior was around mile 11. Shari was begining to feel a little sore and she started stretching during some of the walk breaks but kept soldiering on. The little turnaround at mile 17 across the Falls Bridge and back is usually the point in the race where I dread. It’s downhill and uphill in a short space but this year it seemed to go much easier for me than in 2011 and 2012 and Shari didn’t seem to mind it at all and it gave me one my of my best views all day (see below):

My Little Princess

My Little Princess

Once we cleared the bridge we started to head up into Manyunk proper. Shari started to feel a little uncomfortable again and stopped to put on some more icy/hot cream. These were our 2 slowest miles of the marathon as we did these at a 12 minute mile pace. We were close to Manyunk itself which I had promised her was going to be a high point of the second half of the race as I had remembered the lift from the crowds from my previous experiences.

The run up and back through Manyunk is slight uphill/downhill but was not overly difficult although when you are running miles 19 to 21 it may seem to some like Mount Everest. We found it fine for us although we could see that a few were hurting and hitting the wall at this stage. However, for those with depleted carbohydrate stores Manyunk is the place to be.

We spot the sign for Manyunk

We spot the sign for Manyunk

As we ran into the town we were immediately offered refreshments at a beer station. Plenty partook but we decided to pass and head for the Gatorade and water a little further up the street. People were handing out orange segments to runners which I somehow managed to miss and was so distracted at this stage that I took my last energy gel at mile 19 instead of 20. Oops.. Luckily I had picked up a couple more gels at the last Clif Shot station and may actually have ended up with as many gels that I started with. Oh well, I am fully stocked for my Dopey training.

Main Street Manyunk

Main Street Manyunk

The crowds in Manyunk are awesome. Essentially you run up and down Main Street and the side walks are lined with supporters and people sitting outside cafe’s and restaurants watching. People were handing out brownies (seriously? you are going to eat a brownie from a random stranger mid race?) and Gummy Bears which Shari gladly took (hopefully she didn’t use the icy/hot hand as those would be some interesting tasting Gummy Bears). At the turnaround point you start to run downhill and it is the last big change of direction you make in the race as essentially you have 6 more straight miles to go from here.

A well timed and much appreciated sugar rush

A well timed and much appreciated sugar rush

Now it was heads down to the finish. Not much more to see on the course as we were retracing our steps back to the Art Museum and the finish line. Shari was concentrating on her form so she could run comfortably. She didn’t stop to stretch but just ran focused. She was pretty quiet at this stage and I was my usual chatty (somewhat annoying at this stage probably) self. I was having a ball. I was very relaxed, although I could feel my left ankle a bit it wasn’t hurting and I was just enjoying the sunshine, the run and the pace. We were almost home.

As we approached mile 25 I sensed Shari started to pick up the pace a little and we decided we would skip the last walk break if we felt okay. I don’t think either of us was planning on a sprint to the finish, at this stage the goal was to cross that line. Just as we reached mile 26 we did pick up the pace a little more but it wasn’t a sprint. Shari told me after the race that just as she reached that point her leg buckled a bit and she had a quick “oh no, not now” moment but held on to the end. As we approached the finish line we both went towards the Mayor and got our high fives (we had earned them) and crossed the finish line hand in hand in a time of 4:45 (a 45 minute PR for Shari).

Shari broke down in tears as we crossed the finish line and later told me that although this was her second marathon, at her first at Disney back in January we had plenty of stops for pictures, we had walked a little (as it was way too hot) and pretty much taken it easy, but that this was to her more of a challenge and was a real race feeling as we powered through the whole distance. And yes, before you ask, we were still speaking after 26.2 miles 🙂

My Bride getting her well earned medal

My Bride getting her well earned medal

My Bride and Joy

My Bride and Joy

We did it!

We did it!

A special gold medal for the 20th year

A special gold medal for the 20th year

After getting our space blankets and medals we were shuffled along by a volunteer to one side of the post race refreshment tables. It was pretty quick and easy compared to last year where I had to wait in line for quite a while to get some food. They handed us a small Macy’s bag with some bananas, pretzels, fruits snacks and granola bars. They also had oranges and chicken soup available. What I was surpized was that there were no soft pretzels at the finish line. Come on! This is Philly! No soft pretzels??? What is that all about? 🙂

After clearing the food line we went to try and get our finisher photo noticing that it was on the other side of the food tables. As we tried to approach for our picture a volunteer blocked our path and said that noone was allowed back up into the finish line area. We told him we were directed by another volunteer to the other side to grab refreshments and that we only wanted to get our photos taken but he refused to let us go back for security reasons. Yes, it must have been the banana and water I was holding that seemed threatening. What was that all about? We were still inside the security perimeter. Had it been our first marathon and we really wanted our photo taken we would have been really disappointed.

One of the goals we had for the weekend was to take our picture at Love Park just beyond the finish line area. We noticed as we excited the security perimeter that there were guards blocking people outside. Last year when I ran the Full and Shari ran the Half she had a couple of hours to wait and had walked a couple of blocks to Starbucks to grab a coffee. Had she done that this year she would not have been able to get back to meet me at the finish line. What a difference a year makes.

The walk was a good opportunity to cool down and stay loose before we actually had to sit down and drive home. We have always found it beneficial after a race to just keep moving. We walked (albeit slowly) the few blocks to Love Park and Shari said to me that now she has a baseline for a marathon (4:45 vs her Disney 5:30). Does this mean there may be a third? Who knows…

And we finally made it to Love Park.

Proudly showing our medals

Proudly showing our medals

Celebrating a special moment

Celebrating a special moment

Finally, I just want to say how very proud I am of Shari for completing her Marathon. She was awesome. She is always my biggest cheerleader and today I got to be hers. I look forward to many more 🙂

Thank you for reading (what was a real marathon of a recap).

May 2013 – month in review

May 2013 - Nike+ Summary

May 2013 – Nike+ Summary

115 miles this month. I have learned this month that looking just at the numbers does not tell the full story.

I started the month with high expectations for achieving a PR at the New Jersey Marathon. I was just coming off a PR in the Atlantic City April Fool’s Half Marathon which I thought would be a pretty similar terrain being by the shore and I had definitely put in the miles of training.

As you can read from my race recap things didn’t go according to plan. I didn’t achieve my PR and felt fatigued. This manifested itself about 10 days later when my body just ran out of juice. Rather than be in a funk about why I hadn’t achieved my goals and looking for a dozen reasons why I felt bad I took the time to look at how I got here, what I was doing right and what I was doing wrong. It basically came down to quality vs quantity. I took a couple of days off and readjusted my goals and my training. Hopefully going forward the changes I am planning will pay off. You can read about that here.

This month I launched a Virtual 5K run to raise funds for Autism Speaks for the 2014 Walt Disney World Marathon Weekend where I am running in the inaugural Dopey Challenge. So far the reception to this has been great. Many people have signed up and the first 100 medals have been ordered. I encourage you to sign up and participate if you can just for the fun of it. Remember, if you fully participate and post a picture of Dopey on your run you may be eligible for one of the prizes. See this post for details.

I have my Dopey ready for my run

I have my Dopey ready to run

At the end of the month we celebrated Memorial Day weekend and the official start of the summer. It was a fun weekend as I got to spend a lot of time with the family and celebrate my 10th wedding anniversary. You can read about that here.

Finally, based on a little encouragement, I am venturing into uncharted territory. I have basically been running using Jeff Galloway’s Run/Walk Method since February 2011. It has served me well and got me through 5 marathons. When I revisited what I had been doing as discussed earlier I noticed that although I was putting in the miles I was not getting any faster and all my runs were pretty much the same. Ultimately I want to improve on my marathon times going forward and during the New Jersey Marathon even my walk breaks didn’t seem to help. I am currently reading Pete Pfitzinger’s book on Advanced Marathoning and although I do not expect I will train at that level or follow his plans I am looking to change up my running experience.

Over the last three runs I basically threw caution to the wind and did not use the Galloway Method. I ran a 6 mile easy pace run, a 5 mile tempo run and this morning I ran 10 miles without stopping. These are the furthest distances I have run non stop. That sounds silly coming from someone who has run 5 marathons (including a Goofy Challenge) but I want to see what I can achieve. I believe somewhere out there is a 3:30-3:45 marathon that I can run. It’s worth a try. I’ll be watching carefully how my body reacts and I am open to using Galloway again in the future if I think it will be beneficial. I already plan on doing something like that during Dopey just so I can survive the event!

Looking at the last 3 days of runs it seems to be working so far and I feel okay. Judging from my splits over the last 3 runs my average pace is already that bit quicker. We will see what the future holds I guess.

6 miles easy pace - 5/29/13

6 miles easy pace – 5/29/13

5 miles Tempo run - 5/30/13: 1 mile warm up - 2 miles at tempo with 800m recovery - 1 mile cool down

5 miles Tempo run – 5/30/13:
1 mile warm up – 2 miles at tempo with 800m recovery – 1 mile cool down

10 miles long run - 5/31/13 - miles 1-5

10 miles long run – 5/31/13 – miles 1-5

10 miles long run - 5/31/13 - miles 6-10

10 miles long run – 5/31/13 – miles 6-10

Speaking of future plans, I have a 5K coming up this Sunday (June 2nd) which I will be pushing my two boys in the running stroller again…no PR there 🙂 and on June 16th I will be running the San Francisco Half Marathon with my Wife. I then have the 25 miles Cycle Bucks County event on the 22nd. Lot’s to look forward to. June should be a pretty low key month as the training for this year’s Philadelphia Marathon and January 2014 Dopey Challenge start in earnest in mid-July.

See you on the road.

2013 New Jersey Marathon recap

New Jersey Marathon 2013

New Jersey Marathon 2013

Marathon number 5 is now complete. It wasn’t pretty but I got the job done. I finished in 4:04:53. My goal was 3:55:00.

New Jersey Marathon Result

New Jersey Marathon Result

I had high hopes going into this race that I could earn a PR. I had run just under 4 hours (3:59:05) in last year’s Philadelphia Marathon and had successfully completed the 2013 Walt Disney World Goofy Challenge and survived the extra distance. The New Jersey Marathon course was considerably flatter than the previous two marathons and I was just coming off a PR at the 2013 Atlantic City April Fool’s Half Marathon (1:52:43) in similar conditions, however, my PR was not to be on the day.

Am I disappointed, a little, but I am still proud that I ran 26.2 miles and finished standing up with a smile on my face ready for my next marathon.

I finished with a smile on my face

I finished with a smile on my face

Firstly I must give kudos to the Race Director Joe Gigas for a fantastic job in running this event. Despite all that has happened at the Jersey Shore in the aftermath of Hurricane Sandy (needing to change the actual route of the marathon) and the recent events in Boston (increased security at the start and finish areas) this went off without a hitch (to the observer) and even the weather cooperated. Joe and his team did a great job in getting everyone prepared for the race and for the last 10 weeks leading up to the event regular race director updates were sent out to participants. Each update focused on a specific aspect of the race day and preparations and I kept revisiting them to make sure I was prepared. This included updating security concerns in light of recent events. Thanks Joe and all your volunteers.

As with most races run after Boston the race directors and runners have encouraged each other to wear blue and yellow in support of Boston. As I checked in on Facebook after arriving at the start area I checked in to ‘A Sea of Blue and Yellow on the Jersey Shore – NJM honors Boston’.

I set up my gear the night before. My blue and yellow Boston colors and 'Red Sox'

I set up my gear the night before. My blue and yellow Boston colors and ‘Red Sox’

The race itself was different from my last marathons. First of all there were around 2,300 entrants in the marathon. Philadelphia had around 12,000 marathoners and Walt Disney World had around 20,000 runners so this was a much more scaled down event and that did make a big difference out on the course. There was more space to run and the weaving in and out of runners was pretty much limited if at all.

The start was held at Monmouth Park racetrack. I got there early (around 6am for an 8am start) to avoid the traffic and road closures for the Long Branch Half Marathon which started at 6:45am and which followed the same route for the first 11 miles.

As I was there early I went and sat in the pavilion which meant we could sit inside a heated area and use indoor bathrooms (nice). Just after 7am I headed out to the bag check. This was a point to point race so if we wanted a jacket or other personal item we had to get it on the trucks so they could leave for the finish line before the roads closed for the marathon.

Staying warm inside the pavillion prior to the race.

Staying warm inside the pavillion prior to the race.

I guess due to all the Full Marathoners staying warm indoors the lines to the port-a-potties were non-existent. Awesome. They did get a little busy nearer the start of the race as people started to leave the pavilion but still no long lines. I had chosen this race over doing the Broad Street Run in Philadelphia together with 39,999 of my closest friends and thought about my experiences there waiting in line to go and hoping I didn’t miss the start of the race.

Seriously, no lines?  When was the last time you saw this at a race?

Seriously, no lines? When was the last time you saw this at a race?

It was getting near 8am so I sent my wife a good luck text message (she was running the Broad Street Run) and headed off to Corral ‘C’. I had packed my gear bag in the truck and was wearing a throwaway old sweater with a short sleeved T-shirt underneath. Shivering with my teeth chattering I wished I had decided to wear a long sleeved T-shirt as it was colder than I had expected based upon the forecast as there was more of a breeze than anticipated. As we were all assembling into our corrals, as if by magic, the sun came out.

The National Anthem was sung by a marathoner who was celebrating his 100th marathon. This was followed by a short burst of Neil Diamond singing ‘Sweet Caroline’ as we celebrated running for Boston.

I had planned to run 3:55 and had made myself a pace band and taped it around my left wrist beside my Garmin. I lined up in the corral between the 3:50 pacer (with a very well coifed moustache) and the 3:55 pacer and waited for the gun…or in this case the bugle horn (we were at the race track after all) and off we went.

This is where I should have known something was a little off. I passed the 3:50 pacer within the first mile. My first ‘oops’ of the race. I tried to settle into a good rhythm using my Run/Walk interval of 4:00/0:40 and for the most part I was running very even splits (see the chart below). One thing that I did notice was that my heart rate was elevated around 170bpm (I wear the Garmin heart rate monitor). I put this down to adrenaline at the start of the race and looked for my pace to settle. Usually it is a little high within the first mile or so until I get into my rhythym and then it rises and falls between walk breaks (usually ranging between 135bpm-165bpm). For some reason no matter what I did my heart rate stayed between 165bpm and 170bpm. Strange.

The course took us through many neighborhoods along the shore and there were still reminders of Hurricane Sandy. Some empty houses jacked up on stilts, houses with construction equipment out front, some stores still boarded up and burnt out. It puts lots into persepctive. The course itself had to be significantly altered this year as there was no Boardwalk. That was sad. To see broken wooden studs all along the shoreline where it is usually a great place to walk/bike/run. It is close to Memorial Day and the traditional start of the summer season and where there should be lots of foot traffic here. There will be none for while. But as they say, Jersey Strong. The tag line for the race is New Jersey – Up and Running and there we signs of revitalization and renewal showing hope amongst all the destruction.

Getting back to the race itself, I seemed to be running steady if a little ahead of schedule for about the first 8 miles with no problem. Yes, my heart rate was elevated but I wasn’t suffering in any way. Around mile 8.5 I got passed by the 3:50 pacer. Oh well, that was not to be achieved today. I just had to get my head down and keep going.

As I was running around mile 12 I was at the water station when I heard a volunteer say some ‘choice words’…in other words a pace group was heading in their direction and it was a big one! I looked over my shoulder and sure enough there was the 3:55 pace group. I didn’t think I had slowed too much so I thought as long as I could stick with this group I would be good for my goal. For the most part it was looking good until I reached mile 15. There were lots of turns on the course as we stretched out the route to make the distance and everytime I thought we were near a turn around there was another turn and a sea of runners off in the distance. Whoa. It took me back to the never ending twists and turns through the ESPN Zone during the Disney Marathon. It was a nice course to look at but the turns seemed to knock the wind out of me.

Here are my splits. You can see that I was pretty consistent miles 1 to 14. In fact I ran the first half of the marathon in 1:55:31 at an average pace of 8:49. I seemed to slow a little through miles 15 through 19 reaching the 30K mark in 2:47:55 which still had me on pace to finish sub 4:00. But then I slowed considerably from miles 20 through 22. Around mile 22.5 I got passed by the 4:00 pace group and my times dropped to my worst pace for the last 3 miles. My new goal was then to finish before the 4:05 pace group!

So my PR was not to be but still my final time was quicker than my first two marathons. I know I can and will do better in future and that I have to work on my first half pacing so that I achieve the elusive negative split. I ran the second half in 2:09:22. About 15 minutes slower. A friend of mine suggested I may have overdone it on my energy gels. I usually alternate between the full shot of caffiene and half shot of caffiene gels but for this race I took the full caffiene gels all the way. Maybe that was a reason for the elevated heart rate, maybe not. I will have to work on that for the next race.

Mile splits

Mile splits

I still had a fun time. If I can finish knowing I gave what I could and still feel like I want to do it again then that’s a win. Plus I got a great shot of the famous ‘Stone Pony’ in Asbury Park. I may not have been ‘Born in the USA’ but I was ‘Born to run’ (sorry bad Bruce reference).

I knew I had missed my PR so I had to stop and take this photo

I knew I had missed my PR so I had to stop and take this photo

26.2 miles is still an achievement and completing the distance is a proud moment for someone who still considers themselves a new runner. I never tasted such a nice salty pretzel as I did at the end of this race, although at that point I will admit it hurt to even chew. I grabbed my bag from the gear truck and took the long walk to the shuttle back to the start line. The long walk kept me moving and really helped. I drove home, hopped in the shower, uploaded my run and headed out to meet the family. I felt good. It was a great day.

Marathon Medal (Front)

Marathon Medal (Front)

Marathon Medal (Reverse)

Marathon Medal (Reverse)

This is a race I would recommend. It was great weather, great size and great organization. I would love to run this again on the original route along the Boardwalk when the Shore is fully restored. And I’m sure that will be sooner than later.

Thanks for sticking with me. I know this was a long post. 🙂

April 2013 – month in review

March 2013 - Nike+ Summary April 2013 – Nike+ Summary

April 2013 – Nike+ Summary

I’m posting this a day late but there is quite a lot to look back on this month.

This month I logged 145 miles, logged a new Half Marathon PR, signed up for a new Disney race and began tapering for the New Jersey Marathon on May 5th.

Spring is definitely here and I clocked more miles outside than inside than I have since the beginning of the year.  I’m glad to be outside again although my podcast listening is falling behind (a decent trade off).

My new half marathon PR at the Atlantic City April Fool’s Half Marathon on April 7th is pretty much down to me chasing my wife who is more often than not leaving me in the dust these days. The weather for the race was perfect and the flat course and pace I was able to maintain gives me confidence that I can achieve my goal in the upcoming New Jersey Marathon. 🙂

runDisney also announced this month an addition for the 2014 Walt Disney World Marathon weekend.  The new Minnie themed 10K race and the new ‘Dopey Challenge’.  Needless to say I am in. I signed up to run again with Team Up/Autism Speaks and hope to beat my fundraising of just over $3,400 that I raised for the 2013 ‘Goofy’s Race and a Half Challenge’. Wish me luck.

The end of the month sees me in the last week of my taper with only a few days left before the New Jersey Marathon. Looking back at my mileage from month to month I am actually 40 miles or so less than March which was the peak of my training. That feels about a week less of running. I need to learn for future events that I cannot eat as if I ran that extra 40. I’ll worry about that for the next race 😉

The taper itself has not left me frustrated like people often say but the strange thing about running significantly less mileage and catching up on sleep (days without an alarm wake up call!!!) have left me achy and feeling exhausted. Running is definitely a daily energy boost and all the aches and tiredness is hopefully just a sign of my body recharging before the big day. I actually feel refreshed and good about this weekend and hope to meet my goals. If it works out it works out, if not I remember I am not an elite runner and there will be other races. It’s about overall long term health and enjoyment. PR or no PR I will still have run my race, met the distance and earned my medal (and dessert)…although I will be trying as hard as I can for that PR.

(If you want to follow me during the New Jersey Marathon my Bib number is #2492)

Hopefully I will be feeling fit and healthy and have a nice race recap or two at the end of May.

Thanks for sticking with me.

(If you want to support me as I raise funds for Autism Speaks you can do so at this link. Thank you.)

2013 Atlantic City April Fool’s Half Marathon recap

‘An elephant, a purple tutu and an unintentional PR’.

This weekend my wife Shari, my sister in law Rina and I headed down to Atlantic City, NJ to run the Atlantic City April Fool’s Half Marathon. Shari and I had run the inaugural race in 2012. It was a fun weekend and so we signed up again together with Rina which was to be her second half marathon after Walt Disney World this last January.

We don’t really have a choice ‘NOT’ do to run in this event, after all we were part of the advertising campaign for this race which we discovered at the expo for the Rock & Roll Half Marathon in Philadelphia last September.

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Shari recreating her pose

Shari recreating her pose

The weather this weekend finally was seasonal and so we headed down early on Saturday to get our race packets (packet pick up was at the Revel Casino and Hotel) and then headed over to Ocean City, NJ so that the boys could have some of their own fun at the amusement rides on the boardwalk. They had a blast. I on the other hand broke my own rule about fun fairs (which is that Mummy does the rides and Daddy holds the bags). Let’s just say I never want to see a ‘Tilt-a-Whirl’ ever again. Not a good idea to lose your sense of equilibrium the day before a race. Anyway, once everything seemed upright we headed back towards our hotel with a carb-loading stop at one of our favorite Italian restaurants before heading in for a reasonably early night.

Tutu's and Jester hats available for race day during packet pickup

Tutu’s and Jester hats available for race day during packet pickup

We had booked our hotel (Marriott Courtyard) when we signed up for the race as it was close by Bally’s Casino and Hotel which was the start/finish line last year and what was on the initial information we had. The start/finish line was moved back about a mile to the Revel Casino and Hotel so this called for a walk of just under a mile to the start line early Sunday. It was a little chilly as we left our hotel and we were all worried we were not dressed appropriate but better to be too cold than too warm when running. We huddled into the lobby of the Revel with all the other runners to stay warm. One advantage of such locations is that there are real bathrooms available pre-race and somewhere warm to stand.  A nice luxury on a chilly morning.

Shari and Rina wrapped up before the start of the race

Shari and Rina wrapped up before the start of the race

Warmth and marble bathrooms pre race at the Revel Hotel and Casino

Warmth and marble bathrooms pre-race at the Revel Hotel and Casino

As we shuffled out to the start line with the rest of the runners we bumped into our friend Mayela who we first met at last years race. She looked like she was dressed for summer and made us even more concerned we were dressed wrong with our multiple layers. Oh well, too late now.

Mayela, Rina and Shari at the start line

Mayela, Rina and Shari at the start line

Following the singing of the National Anthem the race started promptly and off we went. My plan for this race was to take it steady and run easy as my goal was to use this as a training run with the New Jersey Marathon just 4 weeks away. I didn’t want to overdo it. The last time I had run with Shari was at the Walt Disney World Marathon back in January and we had previously run the 2012 Philadelphia Rock & Roll Half Marathon and Hershey Half Marathon together step by step from start to finish. I thought we would be doing the same and was looking forward to doing so as last year we both ran our own race here (and both PR’d). What I didn’t expect was my little red head in a purple tutu to go off the start line like Lightening McQueen!!! What the heck?!?!

This was unexpected. I wasn’t quite prepared and I spent more than half the race just trying to keep Shari in my sights. Luckily she was easy to spot all in purple with a tutu. I felt good running and was monitoring my heart rate to make sure I wasn’t exerting too much effort. It was a nice sunny day and so I settled into a good rhythm and got my head in the game. Once we left the Boardwalk in Ventnor, NJ we headed through Margate, NJ past Lucy the Elephant to the turnaround just inside of Longport, NJ. The course is pretty flat, in fact the only ‘hill’ was the ramp up to the Boardwalk at mile 8.5 on the way back into Ventnor. On the way out, I would say I was around mile 5, I saw the leaders running back towards me. I tried to kid myself that they must have been running the 11K race but no, they really were that much faster than me.

Lucy the Elephant (Margate, NJ)

Lucy the Elephant (Margate, NJ)

During this race I was still experimenting with my run/walk ratio ahead of the NJ Marathon. I had gone from 5:00/0:30 which I used for almost all of 2012 and through Disney to 4:00/0:35. However during the race my Gymboss interval timer malfunctioned and I had to fix it on the run. Delicately handling the device so not to lose the battery I removed and replaced the battery and reset the device all while moving at a consistent pace. I am not sure how long I was running but probably missed a walk break. I moved the interval to 4:00/0:40 so I could have a little more time to bring my heart rate down during walk breaks and soldiered on.

I saw Shari after the turnaround heading in the opposite direction and later saw my sister in law who yelled that Shari was beating me by a lot (thanks for the support Rina). I finally caught up to Shari just before we turned back onto the Boardwalk. We pretty much were close together until the last half a mile when annoyed by my constant chit chat she told me to go ahead. We finished within seconds. I ran 1:52:43 and Shari ran 1:52:54. I had PR’d by just over a minute and Shari PR’d by over 5 minutes. Awesome stuff. I looked at Shari’s splits after uploading her run to Garmin Connect when we got home and she was consistently within a few seconds of 8:30 a mile all through the race. I had a negative split (maybe my first) and that is the only way I was able to catch up with Shari.

We had told my in-laws that we would probably be around the 2 hour mark but thanks to the purple speed demon we were ahead of plan. At around mile 12.5 I passed my in-laws coming to the finish line with the boys. I gave a quick yell so they could see me but I was a green blur to them. Luckily they were able to catch Shari just as she ran past as a purple blur. We crossed the finish line and again bumped into Mayela who finished about a minute or two ahead of us. We quickly grabbed some water and food and headed to see the boys. They were so excited to see us and I think more excited that we brought them food. Everyone seemed to be having fun while we waited for Rina to finish.

We did it!

We did it!

Finish line fans

Finish line fans

We were all full of soft pretzels, bananas and Gatorade (and Micah was full of ice cream….before 10am) as we waited for Rina and cheer her on to the finish. After a couple of false alarms (we saw pink in the distance but the runners were not pink) Rina came into view. Everyone was excited for her, no more so than her Mom and Dad who came down with the boys to the finish line to watch. We cheered here on in all her pink tutu’d glory as she PR’d by almost an hour in only her second Half Marathon.

Rina sprinting to the line

Rina sprinting to the line

Great weekend, great race and a nice start to our race season. I am very proud of Shari for her run yesterday. She kept me on my game. I wish she was my official pacer for the NJ Marathon next month as I actually go for an intentional PR (no pressure). I am sure we will run races together again the whole way and look forward to running the San Francisco Half Marathon in July with her. Very proud too of my sister in law Rina. I guess I’ll have to get my own tutu for upcoming races. It seems it’s a necessary accessory for fun and fast races. 🙂

Sisters rocking the tutu look

Sisters rocking the tutu look

March 2013 – month in review

March 2013 - Nike+ Summary

March 2013 – Nike+ Summary

March is the step up month in my marathon training and I clocked just over 182 miles of which 100 were indoors on a treadmill and 82 were actually outside. Yes, March brings the beginning of spring and after finally getting outdoors on March 10th for a teaser of future weather I feel we got ‘punk’d’ by Punxsutawny Phil. What the heck happened?  We got snow in the last week of March and it sent me back inside the gym again.   

Not quite telling the truth

Not quite telling the truth

Anyway, as mentioned earlier, this was the month my marathon training started introducing the ‘longer’ long runs.  I had a 17, 18 and 20 miler to do and thankfully all were able to be done outside.  The 18 miler was the coldest and started off with me slipping on ice as I left my house.  Needless to say that was a very slow and decidedly steady run.  But run it I did and made it through the month.  I struggled a little with an ache in the arch of my right foot during the middle of the month and I had to cut a run short to make sure I didn’t push myself too far.  It had been nagging me for a couple of runs but I wanted to make sure I was fit for the long runs.  Thankfully all was okay.

My last long run was outside by the Delaware Canal and it happened to be on the first day of trout fishing season.  As the water level was high my progress was halted by some flooded areas so I repeated a 6 mile out and back three times as part of the run.  I ran multiple times past dozens of people sitting or standing by the banks of the canal fishing thinking to myself how can they sit there doing nothing, just waiting for something to happen?  They were probably looking at me thinking what the heck is that guy doing running past me again and again….is he lost?  They wore camouflage and I wore spandex.  Two very disparate worlds.  I struggled around mile 16 on that run and although I finally made it to mile 20 I actually was beat up.  I wasn’t using my regular energy gels and I feel that made a huge difference.  I actually for a couple of hours after.

I rotate a couple of pairs of Brooks Adrenaline GTS 12’s at a time and track the mileage on each and the pair I was running in had reached 450 miles by the end of the month so I feel that the arch pain and sore foot I experienced this month may be because I pushed that particular pair too far.  It may be that the discomfort was a sign that the shoes were basically past their due date. Nevertheless I now have a new pair of Brooks Adrenaline GTS 13’s to break in before the New Jersey Marathon on May 5th and another pair being delivered to keep on hand when my next pair (already at 294 miles) are ready to be retired.

My new Brooks Adrenaline GTS 13's

My new Brooks Adrenaline GTS 13’s

March was memorable in that runDisney announced a new event for 2014.  The inaugural ‘Dopey Challenge’.  You can read about it in my post from the day it was announced.  I am so pumped by the prospect of this event that I am very close to an intervention for sure.  I have decided that I will again be running with TeamUp to raise funds for Autism Speaks.  It is a cause near and dear to me as I have a family member who has been diagnosed with Autism Spectrum Disorder and I feel it is the least I can do to help.  Once registered I will be posting my training plan and fundraising ideas so watch this space!!!

Alternatively you can head over to my new Facebook page which launched this month.  It is linked to this blog and will offer a forum for people to post and share along with other news and some giveaways.  Take a look, ‘Like’ it and see what you think.

Tomorrow is April 1st and is the day the registration for the 2013 Philadelphia Marathon opens up.  This is a special event for me as Philadelphia was my first marathon back in 2011 (not that that was too long ago).  This year the plan is for my wife Shari and I to register and run together.  This will be her second marathon after Walt Disney World where we ran together too.  I want to take this one easy as I will be focusing on completing Dopey standing up and uninjured.  I will be focusing on the upcoming New Jersey Marathon in May as my time goal for the year.

April also is the start of what is our ‘race’ season.  We are not competitive runners but have signed up for a number of events over the next few months to keep us in shape.  First up is the Atlantic City April Fool’s Half Marathon on April 7th.  You can see the races that I have planned on my ‘Races and Events‘ page. I hope to be able to do some race recaps on these events whenever possible.

So final thoughts.  I am hoping that the weather finally breaks and becomes what we expect spring to be (although temperatures in the low 50s and overcast would be fine on race days).  April has one more long run and then the beloved taper.  I will also be signing up for the 2013 Philadelphia Marathon and the 2014 Dopey Challenge.

On to the next adventure.

See you out there 🙂