This is going to be a quick and rapid catch up as I can only use the ‘Wayback Machine’ for a short time.
With all the training that I was doing for my July half iron distance triathlon I let the blog updates sit on the back burner for a while. Something about the 3am wake ups and two a day work outs that finished around 9pm made me avoid logging on late at night. Strap in tight…this is going to be a very quick update.
Garmin Connect – June 2017
This was by far the biggest month of training for my half iron distance triathlon. I logged 398 miles (107 running/279 cycling/12 swimming).
Back in early June I ran in the Freedom Mortgage 5K. I was right in the middle of my triathlon training so I was feeling fit. Given that I had run this event well last year I was looking forward to returning. Also, this is the event that my wife was the race director for. As was the case last year I came down with the boys and my father in law. The race course was certified this year (it was long last year). I ran hard and ended up running the exact time as my previous 5K PR (from back in 2012). I was really pleased. I placed 1st in my age group and 15th overall. I earned my donuts that day.
My finish time for the 5K
We made it a family affair again this year.
At the end of the month my wife finally convinced me to participate in The Color Run. I have been hesitant to participate in these races although my wife has run the past few years. I only agreed to do this as we were going to run as a family. At the end of the day it was a fun time and my kids had a blast…until we got home and we had to scrub them clean in the shower.
Running through the Phillies stadium during The Color Run
In the midst of it all…
I guess this says it all
June was a really intense training month for the triathlon and I was more than happy to start my taper at the end of the month.
Garmin Connect – July 2017
The above calendar tells quite a story. In the end I logged 157 miles for the month (32 running/121 cycling/4 swimming).
July was my big event month. I had been training hard for the Rev3 Williamsburg triathlon and was looking forward to having the whole family down with me in Williamsburg for the weekend. As you can read here, the race didn’t really turn out as planned but it definitely was a memorable experience.
The rest of the month was pretty much me being sidelined. I ended up having to cancel my race entry to this year’s New Jersey State Triathlon. I had to rest my body as best I could. I tried running late in the month but I was a little too ambitious. I had to dial it back. However, I found a good compromise by using a sling and slowing my pace down…. a lot!!!
How I felt getting started again
End of July sling running
Garmin Connect – August 2017
Albeit very slowly, I logged 143 miles this month. Running only. It will be a while before I’m back in the pool and I’m staying away from the bike for now.
My actual training plan for this year’s Philadelphia Marathon began in the last week of July. By August I was just getting into the early stages of the plan and struggling a bit with pace. I would still be wearing my sling and by the end of each run I would be hot and tired due to the heat and humidity. I still gutted it out though. We had our family vacation in Myrtle Beach, SC during the third week of August. I was up early to beat the heat every day (not that you could really escape it) and despite my lack of pace I was able to pretty much stay on my training plan. By the end of the month I was running without the sling. Taking it easy still but getting back to form.
Free winging it
Garmin Connect – September 2017
This month I logged 182 miles of running.
September primarily consisted of buckling down to marathon training. I had chosen Hal Higdon’s Intermediate II training plan which is slightly higher mileage than the Intermediate I which I have mostly used. I thought following all the triathlon training I would be in a better position to do the higher intensity training. I hadn’t planned on my accident back in July and so hadn’t gone back to update my annual training plan. I figured I could do a couple of extra miles here or there. My mid-week runs are higher than on the Intermediate I plan and coming up in October I will be doing three 20 mile runs vs two which would be my usual training for a marathon. September therefore had pretty high mileage.
It was a very warm month with no break in the weather that one would expect for early fall so my pace was slower than would normally be.
During the month my wife and I participated in the Philadelphia Rock ‘n’ Roll Half Marathon. This year however we didn’t immediately sign up for the 2018 race so we shall see if this will be on our plan for next year.
Garmin Connect – October 2017
This was the big month of training as I get ready for the 2017 Philadelphia Marathon. I logged 203 miles of running.
I spent a lot of time on my feet running around. This month included the three 20 mile runs I mentioned earlier with three 50 mile weeks out of the month. I didn’t have much time to sit back and relax but all in all I was glad to get through the month uninjured and ready for the taper.
One change that occurred this month was that I finally changed out of my regular shoe after 6 years in the same type (Brooks Adrenalines – I’d worn models GTS 11 through GTS 17). I had been struggling a while in this shoe and the last two iterations (the GTS 16 and 17) just didn’t have the same fit and feel. However it takes a leap of faith sometimes to try something new.
I read a review about the updated Saucony Omni 16 and decided to give it a go. I took them out on a 5 mile run and they felt fine. I was already experiencing difficulty in the Brooks shoe and to some extent my feet were feeling some pain points at the end of runs. On the day of my second 20 miler of the month I had run about a half mile before I had to turn around and go home. There was pain on the top of my foot from the Brooks overlays. I took a risk and ran in the Saucony’s after only wearing them for 5 miles the day before. They came through the challenge as did I. The shoe profile is slightly different (there is a lower drop in the Saucony vs the Brooks) but the stability was there when I needed it. Needless to say I return the two unopened boxes of Brooks and replaced them with the Saucony’s. Fingers crossed this is the right move for me. So far so good. I ran the rest of the month in them including the third and final 20 miler.
Thanks for sticking with me on this. Time to hand the Wayback Machine to its real owners and get…
Back on March 11th, my wife and I were in Washington D.C. to run this year’s ‘Rock ‘n’ Roll’ D.C. Marathon. This was our first ‘RnR’ race outside of Philadelphia where we have run the Half Marathon each of the last few years. This was our chance to run multiple ‘RnR’ races in one year and earn one of the extra medals in their ‘Heavy Medals‘ series.
We had signed up for this marathon with the added incentive that Marathon Finishers were to receive a special jacket for completion of the race. We are pretty easily motivated by free swag and so that was the mantra for our all the winter training to be ready for the early (or just pre) spring race.
Our big fear training through the training was that it could be a bad winter. Actually, it was pretty mild. We did lose a couple of days of training due to snow and ice but for the majority of the workouts we were able to run outside, especially on some of the longer runs. In fact, the last long run for this marathon occurred in February when we were able to dress in t-shirts and shorts as the weather was so good.
During our last long run together I said we had been incredibly lucky with the weather which was when my wife yelled at me for jinxing us. Just because I had said this she started to say she would blame me if the weather turned bad. Oops.
As we got closer to race weekend the forecast kept getting colder and conditions worse. I felt a little unsure of my safety…I had to keep reminding my wife about the jacket…it’s all about the free jacket. In fact, the day we left for the race (Friday morning) there were a couple of inches of snow on the ground and the weather driving down to D.C. was pretty bad until we got to Maryland where it cleared up. As you can see from the screenshot below, it wasn’t going to the kind of weather for t-shirt and shorts.
We arrived at the D.C. Armory early in the afternoon and were fortunate enough to find a parking space right outside the building. While the sun was still shining, it was far from nice weather. It was cold and windy. There was quite a lot of security to get into the building (every bag was checked and we were all scanned by a security wand). This led to waiting lines outside the building and it wasn’t exactly good weather for queuing up either. In fact, I had to run back to the car to grab some jackets as we were standing in line for a while.
Made it to the Armory – we had to go back to our car to get coats so we could wait in the line outside.
Once inside the expo we were led downstairs to bib pickup. We also had the chance to try on the Marathon Finisher jackets to make sure we had selected the right size. Bib pickup was fairly simple and t-shirt exchange was easy.
Bib pickup was on the lower level, the expo on the upper level (despite where the arrow is pointing)
Bib pickup was quick and easy
My wife has second thoughts about letting me personalize bibs in the future
My wife has second thoughts about letting me personalize bibs in the future
The infamous jacket
Once we were done with pickup we headed up to the main floor for the expo. This was typical Rock ‘n’ Roll series expo where Brooks Running had a significant presence followed by the general expo out on the rest of the floor. We didn’t pick up anything at this part of the expo but I did get to see the special edition Brooks Adrenaline Rock and Roll shoe. This happens to be the shoe I run in so I’ll keep my eye out for some discounts.
Your typical Rock ‘n’ Roll Brooks set up
Brooks Adrenaline GTS 17 – Rock ‘n’ Roll Special Edition
Other than the jacket, this was what we were running for 🙂
We then headed out to the main expo. Interestingly it was quite a small affair than what I had expected. We were quickly through the floor and didn’t really see anything unique that caught our eye.
Obligatory race bib photo
Just before the exit to the expo Rock ‘n’ Roll had some race merchandise set up. Both my wife and I bought the same cool shirt, me the long sleeve and my wife the tank t-shirt.
We bought the Abe in the sweatband t-shirt
I had signed up on the website to reserve spaces on the bus that would return us from the finish line back to the start line (this was a point to point race). I asked the information booth where to pick up the tickets. I was told all I needed to do was to show my receipt (the email) to the driver the next day. Sounds easy, so off we left for our hotel.
Outside the expo we bumped into my friend John who hosts the Runner of a Certain Age podcast (we recorded a race recap a few days later which you can listen to with this link). He was running the half marathon the next day. We probably wouldn’t see him the next day as the marathon started at 7am and the half marathon at 8:30am so we wished him luck and will probably catch up with him again at another race.
We then headed to check into our hotel and then meet up with a friend for a pre race dinner. We made a reservation at a restaurant near our hotel in Dupont Circle which was recommended by a fellow Mickey Miler teammate who works nearby. We met up with our friend Robyn and it was a nice relaxing meal. It was obviously a popular place pre-race as more runners seemed to check in for dinner (we figured that with the sneakers and their Rock ‘n’ Roll gear bags they were runners).
Walking to dinner from our hotel. Notice the cherry blossom behind us.
After dinner we stopped into Starbucks for my usual pre-marathon cookie. It’s a tradition I work hard to maintain 😉
It wouldn’t be a marathon without a pre-race cookie
As the weather was not expected to get above the mid-20s the next day I set out warmer clothes than I would normally run a race in. I used a jacket that I could zip open or closed depending on the conditions. It was more worried about waiting around at the start but I did have a plan for that.
Flat Ian – a little warmer than usual.
As we were close by to the start line we were able to walk from our hotel. We got up at a reasonable time (my wife would tell you too early) and made our way to the lobby (she refused to leave until she saw another runner pass through the lobby). My wife was wearing her New York City Marathon finisher blanket and I was wearing my father’s old dressing gown that he left on his last visit from the UK. It was nice and warm and worked perfectly (although I looked like an escaped mental patient walking the streets of D.C.).
We look silly but warm
We walked to the starting area from our hotel as the sun was rising and noted other runners doing the same. As this was the National Mall where the Smithsonian Institute, the White House and all the other Governmental offices were situated I expected quite a lot of security around the perimeter. Certainly after how much there was at the Armory the day before. Instead there was none. There were no check points, nobody checked our bags. Really unexpected.
Once we were changed out of our warm gear (I decided to pack the robe rather than throw it at the start line) we headed into our corral.
The trash bags are out. That should keep us warm in the corral.
Not a bad view to start a race. Early in the morning – note the long shadows.
Ready to get moving
The starting temperatures were in the low 20s. There were not many marathon runners and they brought the waves through very quickly. In fact, as they moved the waves forward we ended up actually on the start line rather than back of a corral so it was kind of weird to be right up front waiting for the word to go, but once we got the word we were off (and hopefully giving us a chance to warm up). We had been out of our plastic bags for a couple of minutes waiting at the start line and already I couldn’t feel the ends of my fingertips never mind my toes.
Here is the full marathon course map:
Full Marathon Course Map
The first mile of the course took us around the Mall and a few of the surrounding Federal buildings. We actually passed by the White House within the first half mile (it was to our right). Again, I was amazed by the lack of any security…I wasn’t amazed by the lack of spectators as it was very early and very cold.
Thankfully it was a beautiful sunny day. As there were fewer marathoners overall and the half marathon wouldn’t start for another 90 minutes or so we had wide open space to run. When my wife and I ran the Marine Corps Marathon in 2015 there were 40,000 people running at the same time. This race had about 2,500 people running and this made it comfortable to run.
After rounding the Mall and the Federal buildings there we ran around the Kennedy Center and the Watergate Building Complex and onto a short out and back that took us along the back of the Lincoln Memorial and along the Potomac River. I can tell you from comparison of the both this race and the Marine Corps race that you get to see more of the District during this race. I think during the Marine Corps Marathon (technically starting and finishing in Arlington, VA) you only get 2-3 miles at the most in the District.
Between miles 5 and 6 of the course was the ‘inspiration – run to remember’ Blue Mile. It was all uphill but the side of the road showed pictures of all the fallen who have served our Country. As we neared the second half of the hill, members of the military and families of the fallen were holding American flags out for us as we passed by. It was a big hill but puts into perspective that it is just a hill and there are people who endure more on a day-to-day basis. For that reason, we could make the hill with no complaints.
We ran through some genteel neighborhoods in D.C. and the weather was sunny but still cold. The sun helped but you could definitely feel the cold when you hit shaded areas. It was nice running through the Howard University Campus around mile 8-9 and the drumline that was playing was pretty great. In one of the neighborhoods during the first half some spectators were handing out champagne and donut holes. Sweet.
As we run through the Capital Hill district just before mile 12 we got a beautiful view. It was a gorgeous looking area and the view of the Capital at the top was the only time during the race we decided we needed to stop and take a picture.
In the Capital Hill area with the Capital in the background.
We rounded the corner into another nice neighborhood and we saw the markings where the half and the full were to split. The wind was picking up now and one of the directional signs blew down right in front of us. The split for the half occurred around mile 12.5 so we didn’t really see a glimpse of the finish line (actually it approached from a different direction than the full marathon). We still hadn’t seen any half marathoners as, although they would have already started, we were running a decent enough pace that even the leaders would have been a few miles behind us. We continued at a fairly decent pace. Pretty consistent actually and at this pace we would be on to beat my wife’s recent New York City Marathon PR from last November.
We hit the Washington Nationals Baseball Park just before mile 15 and the aid station before the bridge that would take us over to Anacostia Park along the river. This was the first time we saw that there were not enough volunteers manning the water stations. Most people were running the half marathon (13,000 vs 2,500) so we anticipated less spectators along the second half of the course but it seemed that also resulted in fewer people manning the water stops on the second half of the course. Don’t get me wrong, the volunteers were enthusiastic, there just were not enough to keep up with the runners. In fact, for most of the second half of the course water was the only thing available, no Gatorade, at many of the stops. You could see that the Gatorade mix was there in the boxes but there not enough volunteers to prepare the mixture let alone hand it out. It may have been something to do with the cold weather and I cannot fault Rock ‘n’ Roll because there were enough aid stations, just not enough people to manage.
The section from mile 15 to mile 18 is an out and back. Not much to see but you are always thankful when you reach the turnaround point. These are the tough miles in the marathon especially when it is an out and back. From mile 18 to around mile 21 we ran along the Anacostia River and a loop around the park. Although there wasn’t too much to see it was peaceful and thankfully all flat. The wind had again picked up and running along the water made the temperatures feel colder. We never really got warm during the race.
Okay then, here we go. As you leave the Anacostia Park area you enter Fort Dupont Park where there is an unfortunate hill, the second such hill of the day, however it was not a pretty sight at mile 23! It is both long and steep. We were becoming a little slower paced (still on for the PR) but we had managed to be caught by the 4:15 pace group. We watched them ‘attack’ the hill. The only thing I can tell you is that less than half of the group was still together at the top of the hill. It took a lot out of everyone. Unlike the hill around mile 5-6 there was not much to inspire, this was just a gutsy get to the top effort. We had to remind ourselves again about the jacket at the finish line 😉
Here is the elevation chart for the race. You can see both hills.
A couple of hills during our run.
That last hill, positioned where it was on the course, took a toll. We slowed down quite a bit. My wife began to feel some discomfort in her knee. I could feel my calf muscles twinge from the elevation. As we made our way back to the finish we had to walk a bit. My wife told me to go ahead but I was not intending to leave her so we walked probably close to half a mile or so until we saw RFK stadium rise up in the distance. It was then a run/walk to the finish (we had run straight through until the hill and were making good time). By now we had slowed down and the PR was out the question, still I knew we would still get to the finish around four and a half hours which was just a few minutes slower than my wife’s New York City time.
The stadium was on the horizon but it was like a wind tunnel running up to the finish line. The wind had picked up again and it was just cold. Slowing down had allowed us to cool down which didn’t help either. Nevertheless we sucked it up and made a run to the finish. We rounded a small hairpin turn within the last quarter of a mile which is where the half met up with the full. The finish line was divided into two different sides and the finish chute for each race started as the two races met up. We crossed the line in 4:31:16 which considering our big slow down over the last 3 miles was not a disaster.
We stopped for a quick picture before looking for a mylar blanket to keep us warm. It was still only 26 degrees at this time of the day even before the wind chill. Brrrr….
Made it. Another marathon down.
This was my 18th full marathon and my wife’s 9th. It was, despite everything, a good day.
We made our way through the finish line area to pick up some water and other refreshments. I like Rock ‘n’ Roll races as there is always chocolate milk at this finish line. This race was no different. However, as it was so cold it was like drinking a milk shake. I got brain freeze. My wife was so cold she couldn’t drink it. Our mylar wraps were blowing around and not really keeping us warm so we hurried over to the bag check to get our warm gear out again.
Feels amazing to be warm(ish) again.
We then had to line up for our Marathon Finisher jackets. After all, this is why we did this, right? Apparently, so did everyone else!!! Long lines but they moved fairly smoothly.
Look at all these crazy marathoners looking for a free jacket.
Once we had the jackets it was a matter of finding the shuttle back to the start. I had my tickets so I headed to the information booth. The lady at the information booth said that there were no shuttles and didn’t know what I was talking about. The map did however show a VIP shuttle area so we headed over to the VIP area to ask about the shuttles to the start line. No one had any idea what we were talking about. The map did say where they were supposed to be so albeit with little help from anyone who knew anything about RFK stadium we made our way to where the shuttles were said to be parked. There was a lot of walking involved….and stairs. We were not happy (or optimistic at this point).
Yeah…just what you want to see at a marathon.
The only problem was, no shuttles. Any empty parking lot. Ugh. We made our way to where the roads were open to traffic and decided to call for an UBER (this would be my first!!!) We had no money so the taking the Metro was out. This was not smart and totally my fault. I had four fully loaded Metro cards back in the hotel but I was relying on the shuttle so I didn’t bring them along. As we approached what appeared to be every UBER users’ rendezvous point we stood and waited for ours to arrive. Luckily ours seem to arrive ahead of everyone else and so we took it back to the hotel which was better than the shuttle would have done for us anyway. The driver even cranked up the heat for us in the back. We were very grateful.
Best UBER driver ever!!!
We made it back to our hotel and grabbed some coffee to warm up. We showered and got ready to head out for a late lunch. We took time to admire that darned jacket!!!!
Was it worth it? I’m not sure. I just like running marathons I guess.
So that we didn’t stiffen up we decided to take a walk from our hotel around the local area and grab a bite to eat. We filled up on warm yummy food and indulged in an awesome peanut butter milkshake (which we did share). Notice my wife is wearing her marathon finisher jacket 🙂
She had to make sure the jacket got into the photo.
We took another UBER into the District and spent the afternoon at the National Museum of American History. Specifically the Armed Forces exhibit which we didn’t get to fully see when we came with the boys last summer. We were in the museum until it closed around 5pm and then took the rest of the day walking through the Mall and back to our hotel where we were pretty much beat for the day.
Walking around to keep ourselves moving.
Marathon legs? What marathon legs?
36.3 miles? Yes, I was pretty much toast by the end of the evening.
The next morning we had brunch plans with a friend of my wife. We did have a reservation but it was still an hour or so wait for a table. We gave the restaurant manager our cell number and he said he would call us around 15 minutes before our table would be available. We took advantage to walk around the George Washington University Campus where we were and then headed over to the Lincoln Memorial. It was a glorious sunny morning (still not warm but warmer than the day before). What a great finish to our weekend.
At the Lincoln Memorial
At the Lincoln Memorial
At the Lincoln Memorial
Despite the cold we really enjoyed the race. The course was beautiful but the hills were tough. It was definitely worth more than just the jacket.
Thank you for reading (I know this is really really late).
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 on Sunday May 1st my wife and I ran the 2016 Novo Nordisk New Jersey Marathon. This was the third time running the event for me (I ran in back in 2013 and 2014) and the first time running this event for my wife. We were looking for a spring marathon and also somewhere less hilly than our recent marathons together (Baltimore, Pittsburgh and Marine Corps) so this fit the bill.
Having not run the event since 2014 I wasn’t familiar with some of the changes to the race that had taken place since. I know that the sponsor had changed since I ran last time and that there was a new look to the website but I wasn’t sure (I am still not sure) if it was the same race director. What I had liked about this race in the past was the regular communication from the race director. Starting around 8 weeks out there would be a weekly email coming every Sunday evening leading up to the race. This year I counted about 2 the whole time. Nevertheless, the biggest change and the one that would actually be a factor for this year was a change they had made the previous year. When I had run in 2013 and 2014, the half marathon started about an hour before the marathon. Starting last year the half and full started together. It would be interesting to experience the change.
As I work not too far from Oceanport, NJ I headed over to the expo on the Friday evening after work. The expo was held as in previous years at the start location for the race, Monmouth Park Racetrack. After parking and walking into the pavilion the set up was the same as in prior years. Head through to bib pickup, then t-shirt pickup and then through the official merchandise (none bought this year) and through the small vendor expo.
The expo was held at Monmouth Park Racetrack
The expo was held at Monmouth Park Racetrack
Ready for bib pick up
Bib pick up for the half and full marathon
Bibs in hand and ready to go
Men’s and women’s cut t-shirts were provided
I prepaid for parking at the start line so I was set for race day
There was an area of official race gear although I left empty handed
I wasn’t looking for anything in particular but I did stop by a shoe vendor as they had stacks and stacks of Brooks shoes. I wanted to try on the Brooks Adrenaline GTS 16’s to see how they fit as the sizing between the 14’s and 15’s had changed and I had subsequently had to change my regular sizing. I was able to find a pair my size so now I know for when I’m ready to buy new shoes, (which is never too far off).
I’m sure they will have one pair my size
Not much else for me to see at the expo although it was good to bump into my fellow Mickey Miler, Tammy, who was working the Bondi Band booth.
A jockey selfie for good luck
My gear all set up the night before
I usually take a room in a nearby hotel for this race but due to logistics and the imminent birth of my nephew (who came two weeks later…not so imminent it seems) we decided to drive in on the morning of the race. Our regular after school baby sitter came to our house just before 5am on Sunday as we were about 75 minutes or so away from the start.
In past years I had always arrived after the half marathon runners had left so the roads into the starting location were pretty empty. This year, however, because everyone was starting at the same time it took me almost 30 minutes to drive the last 2 miles. Crazy. One fortunate break was that as we turned off the main highway and were stuck in a major backup the local police moved a barrier right next to us and waved us into a back entrance to the park. Thank goodness for that…I needed a bathroom break pretty badly.
A jockey fist bump for good luck!!!
We headed to the pavilion which was where we encountered our first slightly unpleasant surprise. In past year I had arrived after the half marathon had started and the inside of the pavilion was only left to marathon runners. There were plenty of seats to relax in, there were no lines for the ‘indoor’ bathrooms and generally we all stayed in the pavilion until about 15 minutes before the race. Not this year. With the half marathoners and full marathoners starting at the same time it was pretty much standing room only. The lines for the men’s bathroom were long, but not as long as the line for the women’s bathroom that stretched almost the length of the pavilion. Wow. My wife decided (as she was about 30 places back from the front of the line) that we would try to make our way to bag check and she would line up to use the restrooms outside while I checked our gear bags.
As we were approaching the bag check they were giving us only a few minutes before they were closing the trucks. I met up with another Mickey Miler, Elvin, at the bag check and we went to find my wife who was still waiting in line. Usually at this stage I would be in the corral waiting to go. In prior years I was in Corral C or D and was there before Corral A was released. This year, we were still in the bathroom lines by the time they had released Corral C. I’ve never been in that situation before. There were just too many people compared to the facilities they had available.
Meeting up with Elvin outside of bag check
Finally made it into our corral
Ready for the word to go
In addition to scrambling to get into the Corral (I was in Corral E and I took everyone in with me) it had started to rain. There we were all wrapped up in our trash bags (Elvin wore a rain jacket) and we still had 26.2 miles ahead of us in this weather. We decided to all run together as long as we could. We were going to use a Run/Walk ratio of 3:00/0:30 and see how we felt.
The first few miles were through local neighborhoods around the race track and it was nice to run through the streets as people had come out to their front yards to cheer us on despite the weather conditions. It was raining lightly, not too hard but enough to get you wet. My wife, Elvin and I maintained very steady pace and were able to stay together despite a little more crowding due to running with the half marathoners. It wasn’t ‘Disney’ congested but more than I had experienced in the past for this race.
Around mile 6 I had to take a bathroom break just after we passed the water stop. I thought it would be quick as there were 4 port-a-potties. Was I wrong? Almost 5 freaking minutes waiting in the rain!!!! I didn’t want to run on as this is a smaller race and I hadn’t seen many bathroom stops within the first 6 miles. My wife was very patient…very…(more on that later).
With that over and done with we ran on. Elvin was still with us and we ran across the first of two small water way bridges and then made our way into Long Branch. Along the side of the road I remembered that there were usually signs with inspirational or funny quotes. They were there again this year but due to the rain they had either sagged or split (they were paper based) due to being so wet. It was a shame but there was nothing that can be done about that. We just got our heads down and plodded along trying to avoid any puddles in the road.
The first part of the course had taken us from Oceanport through Monmouth Beach and then into Long Branch. As we approached mile 11 the half and full marathon routes began to split into two lanes as the half marathoners would turn back up the boardwalk to the finish line in Long Branch while the full marathoners soldiered on. Just after the split we entered the town of Deal. This was the start of the long out and back part of the course. It’s essentially a straight run down to Ocean Grove from here through the towns of Deal, Allenhurst, Locharbor, Asbury Park and Ocean Grove before coming all the way back up the through the same towns to the finish in Long Branch.
The course map that was displayed at the expo
Around mile 13 as we were running through Deal we saw the leaders making their way back to the finish. They looked strong despite the conditions. Some were dressed as though they had expected warmer temperatures. We were a little chilly in our multiple layers as we saw these runners in their running singlets coming the opposite way. Heck…I was wearing gloves the whole of the course.
Deal, NJ is home to some really impressive houses. There was lots of eye candy to distract you as you ran down. By this stage the runners had started spreading out and as there were less full marathoners in the event we found ourselves pretty much running silently on except for supporters around the aid stations. There were a couple of runs around inland ponds which took us off the straights and gave us something different to look at but it was mostly running along Ocean Avenue through each town.
Around mile 15 the rain started to come down heavier. It was the ‘wet enough to soak you’ type of rain. It wasn’t hard rain but it was not the lighter stuff we had run the first 15 miles in. Oh well, we were pretty committed to this thing by now so no choice but to push on.
As we approached Asbury Park we stopped to take a picture outside of the ‘Stone Pony’. Famous for its links to Bruce Springsteen in his early years and other local New Jersey bands. Asbury Park is famous for its boardwalk and in the past there had been some entertainment out on the course here. With today’s weather conditions there was none of that to be seen.
Once through Asbury Park you start to sense that the turnaround has to be somewhere near. From my recollections of this race it is one of the most elusive turnarounds. You run around a street corner and think it must be there only to see another street and then another corner and then another street. It was well tucked away. Having run this race twice before I was familiar with the scenario but I heard plenty of people around me asking where on earth the turnaround was. I had mentioned to my wife and Elvin that it does seem to be a bit of a tease but it did exist! Finally we hit this tiny little cone in the middle of the street and turned around. It was just after mile 19.
We were still using our run/walk ratio and mostly concentrating on avoiding the ever-increasing puddles as we ran. Elvin stayed with us until about mile 21 when he told us to go ahead as his legs were beginning to cramp up. We ran on the boardwalk for a short time before returning back onto the road.
There were not too many people around us at this stage but we were still moving at a nice pace. We started to see the back of the pack as they were approaching mile 14 and saw the pace wagon driving slowly behind them. We cheered them on and hoped they would make it. The rain had let up for now and we were just running to get home. My wife was feeling good. In all our marathons together (this is her 7th) she has always begun to struggle with hip and/or knee pain around mile 20. So far so good! It may have been because this course was relatively flat but either way, neither of us was unhappy or uncomfortable.
As we approached Long Branch we picked up the pace a little. We saw the boardwalk and knew that the end of the race was near (or so it seemed). At this point the rain started again steadily. Yup, the ‘getting you more wet than before’ type of rain. The last mile or so is all on the boardwalk. I was a little concerned about footing with the boards being so wet but we seemed to get along fine which was a relief.
The one thing I remember about this race is that if you think you can see the finish line then you are wrong. It is tucked away out of sight and you do not really see it until just after you hit mile 26. Once we saw this we stepped up the pace again and ran in home. Another marathon done. It was wet but no one was hurting and we were both happy and relieved in a time of 4:44. My wife even PR’d by 45 seconds…yup including the 5 minute port-a-pottie stop where she waited for me, and yes…she certainly let me know her feelings about that 😦 I personally had a PR….my wife didn’t shout at me or get mad at me for the whole 26.2 miles!!! Our previous record was 22 miles before I knew to avoid making eye contact. This was a big win 🙂
Once through the finish line we were awarded our medals and handed some water and Gatorade. It was beginning to rain harder and as we had stopped running we very quickly started to get cold and start shivering. There were no mylar blankets at the finish line for runners. Granted, in the past it was a beautiful sunny day and none were needed nor expected.
We quickly made our way to the gear trucks where we had packed our bags with dry clothes. They had changing tents alongside the trucks but we decided it would be pointless to change into dry clothes as we still had a long walk from the finish line to the buses which would shuttle us back to the start line. As we started walking to the buses I saw Elvin just crossing the finish line. As we had already passed the exit to the race area we figured he’d need his time to recover and we headed on towards the buses.
Once on the bus it was nice and warm. Steamy, given everyone’s wet conditions. At one point I turned to talk to my wife beside me and water poured off my hat onto her. It was funny from where I was sitting at least. Finally we pulled back up to Monmouth Park Racetrack. The bus had parked on the opposite side of the pavilion so that meant we had to walk a short distance (on marathon legs) back to the parking lot. It is a very steep step down from a bus after a marathon!!! Once outside we were immediately shivering. The rain hadn’t let up and we still had to walk to the car.
On the bus heading back to the starting line
Finally we made it. After switching on the engine in the car and turning on the heat we changed out of our wet clothes and tried to warm up. My wife was a particular shade of blue at this point. We handed our pre-paid parking pass at the exit and headed home. We were keeping a close eye out for somewhere to stop for coffee and lo and behold we came across a Dunkin’ Donuts drive through where we got ourselves coffee and a bagel. The timing worked out as we had just left Dunkin’ and were at the point where the road splits between the direction home for us and the other back up towards NYC when Elvin pulled up in his car next to us. That was a nice surprise. We said our goodbyes and went off in our respective directions home.
Overall it was a good day. I had great fun with my wife and with Elvin. Running together made up for the conditions as it was a great distraction for us all. I was a little upset that I wasn’t able to share my 2013 and 2014 experiences with my wife due to both the weather and the change in the logistics at the start of the race. I enjoyed the course as before but after 3 out of 4 years running this event I think I may take a break and look for another venue for a spring race.
Once back home I had the best ever hot shower. Unlike our normal jam-packed weekend activities, the weather didn’t improve much and it is very rare for us to just stay home and relax. This was probably the first marathon out of the 15 I have completed where I went to lie down once I was showered and dressed. While I didn’t fall asleep I kept off my feet and just rested. That was nice. Rare, but nice.
The marathon finisher medal
I like the way they list all the towns we ran through on the back of the medal
Apologies for the late post of this race recap. Not sure if it was really as a result of the weather conditions from the race but I was laid low with a sinus infection for a few days after the race and as I recovered from that I threw my back out. I was laid flat for another few days and I was unable to do any training for 9 days. Very frustrating but now I am back on the road after the minor setback and training towards my upcoming triathlons.
My total mileage for the month was 200 miles. Although my Nike+ summary says 150.5 there seems to be an error in the site 😦 as the total running actually adds up to 163. I managed to knock out 1.6 miles from the limited time I spent in the pool this month and I put down 36 miles on the bike (unfortunately indoors on the bike trainer only).
This was a big month for marathon training for the upcoming New Jersey Marathon on May 1st. Although I still have one long run left in April before the taper, March saw me crank out three long runs of 17, 18 and 20 miles. I’ve managed to wear down two pairs of shoes so I’m getting ready to break in the new shoes for the marathon soon, taking my last two pairs of Brooks Adrenaline GTS 15‘s out. Post marathon I’ll be looking to do some more runs in the Altra Provision 2.0s and looking to move up to the Brooks Adrenaline GTS 16’s. The Brooks has really been my ‘Go To Shoe’ (GTS) since I started running marathons back in 2011.
Breaking out the last pairs of Brooks Adrenaline GTS 15’s to break in for the marathon.
At the beginning of the month we found out the results of the New York City Marathon lottery. My wife was accepted but for me it’s another year with no entry. I actually had signed up for the Princeton Half Marathon on the same day prior to entering the lottery but now that my wife is running I will forego the race so I get a chance to travel, support and cheer for her on race day. I’m looking forward to going and I’m planning how I can crisscross the subway system to see her as many times as possible. I will probably look at the lottery again for another year.
Maybe next year.
With not getting into New York City this year I looked to a Fall race that my wife and I had discussed as a backup plan. We are now going to be heading to Albany, NY in October to run the Mohawk Hudson River Marathon. My wife will be running the half marathon that day as it fits nicely into her training plan for New York City. We have family up there so are planning to take the boys and making a weekend out of it.
With my calendar now all confirmed for the year (plus signing up again for the 2016 Philadelphia Marathon when registration opened up on April 1st) I was able to update my training plan for the year. You can follow the link to my insanity here.
This month I finally got fitted and took ownership of my new road bike for the upcoming HITS Hudson Valley Triathlon this July. The folks over at Guy’s Bicycles near me were really helpful in finding the right bike for me for the right needs and at the right price I could afford, a 2015 model Scott CR-1 30. They took time to explain the different options available and they fitted me for my specifications on the bike swapping out any components that needed to be adjusted to fit me just right. I’m looking forward to getting outdoors on this once the weather improves and I have enough early morning daylight hours to ride outside before work.
The fitting process included adjusting the seat height, angle of the seat post/saddle and the reach over the frame. They did replace the saddle….
See? I did leave with a saddle.
Ready to roll. Yes, my license plate does say 007.
Back home and ready to ride.
Mid month I had to take a trip down to McLean, VA to do some work out one of our offices. It was an opportunity to run outside again as it was a little warmer down there. The office is on a very large corporate campus near Tysons Corner, VA and my hotel was right next door. I planned out my routes and each and every day and still I got completely lost. It was only the sight of my office building (beautifully lit from the outside) that I was able to locate my hotel each day. Headlamp running does have its drawbacks, especially for the geographically challenged.
This was my guiding light home every morning. Easy to spot and much more impressive when seen for real.
Also this month I ran the Philadelphia Phillies Charities 5K with my wife. She has run the event every year since it began and this was a first time run for me. It was a chilly morning but it was a fantastic run. We ran together and hit a pretty good pace. The swag from the race was impressive with each of us getting a shirt, a medal and two tickets each for a pre-season game, one of which we were able to swap for a later game in the season. We also got a chance to get onto the field to take a few pictures after the race. We earned our pretzel that day.
Pre race. Trying to keep warm and wearing as much red clothing as I could manage. Go Phillies.
Medal, schmedal. I got a pretzel!!
Happy with our pace. We ran step for step together.
And finished with a fun photo opp.
I got a package late in the month from my buddy, fellow Mickey Miler and host of The Marathon Show, Eddie McCoy. In addition to all his training, work, life and other activities he has managed to plan for and provide team shirts and jerseys for our running team the Mickey Milers. Looking forward to wearing my new long sleeve jersey (although hoping for warmer weather to so I don’t have to wear it too often).
Hmmm….wonder what this is?
Yup. They got that right. Mickey Milers purple and yellow.
Earlier in the month I was invited to participate in a recording of the ‘Let’s Run Disney’ podcast to discuss my ‘Goofy in a Day’ experience from last May. The podcast was released at the end of the month and you can get to the link from here. It was fun to talk about the experience and it was nice to be a part of the show.
Thanks for taking the time to read my month in review. I appreciate you stopping by each month. March was very busy but there is plenty to look forward to this year with the upcoming New Jersey Marathon coming sooner than later.
As a reminder, I will be participating in the HITS Hudson Valley Triathlon this July and raising funds for Autism Speaks through this event. If you would like to sponsor me you can get to the sponsorship page here. I appreciate your support.
My Nike + Summary shows 121 miles. There was no cycling or swimming this month. Not sure why but probably because of travel, weather and general fatigue and no races I took it rather easy. Still, managed to knock out 121 miles.
We had just returned from our Florida trip when I had to fly out to Arizona. I think the drive time from Florida to Pennsylvania and the transcontinental flying finally caught up with me combined with the change in temperatures (winter finally arrived) sending me to my basement treadmill for my runs.
I think the major ‘funk factor’ in this was the fact that this was the first Walt Disney World Marathon Weekend I have missed since 2012. I had to live vicariously through all my friends and fellow Mickey Milers team mates Facebook and Twitter posts. I was itching to be there so bad this year but the logistics of home life, work travel and also costs just made it an impossibility this year. Sad, but there will be other times. I’m focusing on my first half ironman triathlon distance this year so really cutting back on racing and focusing on the training plan…boring…but hopefully fruitful come July 🙂
Trying my best to not feel left out…with my 2015 Half Marathon shirt and my extremely overpriced 2013 Marathon coffee cup
With the weather forcing me indoors I actually have the opportunity to try transitioning to Altra Zero Drop shoes. I would have liked to try this previously but there is a 3-6 week adpating period where you wear the shoes progressively more and more each run but switch back to your regular shoes mid-run. Generally when I am running outdoors I am not looking to carry a spare pair of shoes everywhere with me. Indoors at least I can put the shoes next to the treadmill and easily switch mid-run. We shall see how this goes. I am trying to transition from my Brooks Adrenaline GTS shoe with a 12mm drop (from heel to toe) to the Altra Provision shoe with a 0mm drop. It will take time I’m sure and I will probably have a few strange aches and pains during transition. We shall see how this works out. So far I’ve managed to get up to 6 miles. A way to go if I’m going to be into these shoes before the New Jersey Marathon on May 1st. The key is to getting to the start line injury free. If it isn’t working out I’ll be running in the Adrenalines.
So, as I’m saying that I will be registering for less races, I did manage to sign up for 2 first time races for me this year. The first is the Philadelphia Phillies 5K race at Citizens Bank Park on March 26. I figure a 5K during the marathon training will be a good time to see how my speed is going. Not sure it will be a fast 5K given the nature of the race but I will see nearer the date. Also, I signed up for the Princeton Half Marathon in early November. My wife ran this race last year and I was really jealous of her ‘squirrel’ medal so it’s my turn this year! It’s in November after my triathlon season so I can get away with my previous comment about running less and concentrating on the triathlon 🙂
My wife and I registered for the lottery for the New York Marathon. We will find out if we get in together in early March. I figure if either one of us gets in we should run it regardless of whether the other does or doesn’t. It is such a big race and the lottery is just that…a lottery. Who knows if we will get selected. It’s a big race but it’s definitely a bucket list one. I figure it’s a one and done type of race because of the size of the field and the logisitics of the weekend just sound a bit too much for me. I’m sure it will be fun and I am hoping that we both get in. I’ll let you know 🙂
Both my wife and I are in training for the New Jersey Marathon on May 1st. The weather has driven us both to the treadmill unfortunately. Looking forward to getting out whenever we can but making sure to be sensible and safe. No point in running in the cold and icy conditions if we don’t really have to. Better to be safe inside. The conditions in May will not be replicated in January that’s for sure.
We had the first big snow of the year…and it was big. On top of my long run that day (11 miles on the treadmill) I was outside shoveling snow for over 4 hours. Quite a workout but I prefer swimming and biking as my cross training!!!
My youngest in the snow. Reminiscent of the planet Hoth…I think he is looking for his tauntaun.
I hit another personal milestone this month as I made it past the 8,000 mile mark since I started recording my workouts back in September 2010.
I’d been running about 5-6 weeks using a ‘Couch to 5K’ program before I started logging my activities so this is pretty much from the beginning. So now I’m onto the next milestone. In that time I’ve completed 19 half marathons and 14 full marathons and countless other events. I’m feeling pretty proud of how far I’ve come. I think this is also going to be a big year for me and January was a good start to 2016’s adventures.
The Sunday before Thanksgiving is usually the date for the Philadelphia Marathon. This is one of my favorite races at my favorite time of the year. It was my first marathon and I have run it every year since with the exception of last year when I was in Florida with my family over Thanksgiving week.
The Philadelphia Marathon was my very first marathon back in 2011, in 2012 it was the first marathon where I ran under 4 hours and in 2013 I ran the 20th anniversary marathon with my wife on a glorious late Fall day. It’s always been a good time.
This year my wife decided to opt out running this with me as she thinks her three marathons during the year were more than enough and it was very close to the Marine Corps Marathon which we was our big Fall race together.
Coming off the Marine Corps Marathon where I had struggled quite a bit going through I was able to get back into my running groove with a few good recovery runs and also two races, the Rock and Roll Philadelphia Half Marathon and the Cooper Norcross Run The Bridge 10K race (no race recap on that race but will cover in the month in review). I felt good going into marathon weekend and set my sight on a very ambitious race goal of 3:50 or better (my current PR is 3:54).
With a full weekend of family activities ahead I took a half day on the Friday before and headed down to the Expo (again held in the Philadelphia Convention Center) on the Friday evening. That’s good and bad. Good because the expo wasn’t jam-packed with people and as I was on my own I had an opportunity to spend some time looking around. Bad because heading into Philadelphia and trying to park near the Convention Center on a Friday evening isn’t the easiest thing you can do. Lesson learned.
Heading into Center City Philadelphia
The expo was set up as it had been in prior years. As you entered you went to the left where there was a children’s area (Comcast had set up a screening area with some kids programming which was nice) and just behind that was the stage for the speakers series (I didn’t attend any sessions this year). Past that there was a large area segregated into marathon, half marathon and Rothmans 8K bib pickup. As it wasn’t too busy at the time I attended I was in and out really quickly. I think there were more volunteers than participants at the time I was there.
I always get excited arriving at an expo. This being one of my favorite races was no different.
Expo hall was not crowded when I visited.
It was a decent sized Expo. Not too big, not too small.
Plenty of stalls to visit…and spend money at.
Bib pick up was simple and easy.
There seemed to be more volunteers than visitors at this hour.
One thing that was an improvement over the last time I ran the race and all the previous years (2011 through 2013) was the race merchandise. It was actually very well set up (still not the biggest area) but it was divided up into men, women, youth and general merchandise. What was more impressive was that there was just so much variety. Okay, a lot of it was brands I had not heard but there was so many different types of shirts, running gear, colors, styles. More so than I had seen at many other expos. Some were reasonably priced (and you know what race gear pricing can be).
Official Gear Store was pretty well stocked.
Plenty to chose from. Men’s selection.
Youth selection. Don’t see this much for kids at many expos.
Lots of styles for this race. More than usual. Many types of shirts and jackets.
I actually ended up buying a half zip top with the race year/logo and the list of streets from start to finish on the back. I thought that was pretty cool and unique. That, and my Marine Corps Marathon jacket have seldom been out of my rotation since.
I liked this. Thought it was pretty unique.
The sponsor of the race was GORE-TEX. They had a very large booth where you could enter for a prize of some running gear. I actually went to check out the shoes as they do make a Brooks Adrenaline GTX shoe which is my favored shoe. It’s definitely more of a trail shoe based upon the sole design and as I do most of my running on the road, the shoe seemed a bit more shoe than I need as a day to day training shoe. Still, nice to have an option.
GORE-TEX had a large presence in the center of the hall.
Having spent too much money (really, anyone surprised?) I headed back home knowing that I could rest easy the day before the race…like I ever allow myself to do that. We had a full weekend of activities. I was a little antsy when I got home so I set out my gear on the Friday evening and watched the hour by hour forecast for the next couple of days.
The day before the race I typically eat a decent breakfast after a short run and then have lunch as my main meal and have a light early meal (around 5pm). Well, not this year 😦 While I did get my run in and then a fairly reasonable and healthy lunch, I spent the afternoon on my feet going shopping for birthday party supplies. Then we had long-standing plans for dinner but that was a late 9pm event which is atypical for me anyway. I ended up nibbling bits and pieces through dinner…mainly the bread basket. Anyway, everyone had plenty of wine and I had plenty of water before heading home for the night. But not before changing up my outfit…again.
I ended up swapping the tank for a t-shirt but otherwise used the same get up.
This is the 4th time I have run this race. The first year the weather was perfect (low 50s). The second year it was really cold (low 30s). The third year was glorious sunshine (low 60s). The forecast for this race looked to be around high 30s but what was going to be different was strong gusting winds. I didn’t want to be over dressed when I was going to be sheltered from the wind so I still dressed fairly light.
I had learned my lesson about my shoe lace incident at the Marine Corps Marathon and had done my best to make sure my shoes would not inhibit me in any way. After all, this was the goal race for the year. I had my goal time and was really feeling confident that I would at least get close to my PR. Hmmm….
Race day morning.
I got up early, it was windy and cold out. I made myself a cup of coffee for the road and took myself down to the city. I knew that since Boston they have really ramped up the security at the race. This was just a days after the Paris attacks and the City had ramped up the security even further. They had trucks blocking the streets, barricades and checkpoints for runners.
Security had been ramped up.
Barricades surrounded the race perimeter.
Everyone was checked. Certain articles like opened bottles were not permitted inside.
I’d learned from the Marine Corps Marathon and made sure I was there early enough to make it through before the big crowds.
Bag check was quick and easy as usual. All set up in Eakins Oval.
Dressed up, feeling confident and ready to go.
Busy at the staging area.
As dawn was breaking I made my way over to the corral for the 7am start.
This is my stop.
Keeping warm in my trash bag. Not stylish but very practical.
While waiting in the corral we heard from the race organizers and Mayor Nutter. He has really dedicated himself to this race and this would be his last as Mayor of the City. He stays at the start line to see runners off and then stands at the finish line high fiving runners as they cross. It’s a long day for him but he seems to enjoy it.
This year, with the event being so close to the attacks on Paris he mentioned how the City stands with Paris and they actually had the French National Anthem sung at the start line.
There was a slight delay at the start as there was a car accident further up in the route that needed clearing. It set everything back about 10 minutes but we were soon ready to go. I took off my trash bag and handed it to a gentleman near the corral fence wearing a Boston Marathon shirt who I would get to see many times during the race. More on that later.
Soon it was go time for our corral and before I knew it we were off. It was a little congested for the first mile. I was using a new run/walk interval for the last couple of weeks based upon Jeff Galloway’s guidelines on his website. Run 3:00/Walk 0:30. This was kind of an experiment as this was the shortest run interval I’ve used for a long time.
Hey look…getting my high five from the Mayor at the start.
I settled into my pace. It was a little slower than planned. Running closer to 9:00 minutes per mile rather than my goal pace of 8:45/mile. I think I knew early on that this might not be what I was looking for, but at least I may get close to sub 4 hours.
In the meantime, I had been trying to maintain my pace near the gentleman in the Boston Marathon shirt. I figured that anyone who has qualified for Boston should be able to manage an even pace. As he was in my corral I kept him in my sight. I would drop back during a walk break but make up the distance to him during the run. So far it was working.
As we rounded South Street around mile 4, we then had to run up Chestnut Street from 6th Street to 34th Street. While there are crowds that line the sides of the street pretty much the whole way (which is great) it was a very tough run as it was directly into a headwind. It was cold and windy and I took quite a beating getting up to 34th Street which is where the largest hill on the course is located. After being beaten up by the wind for the last 3 miles it took a lot out of me to get up that hill. I was pretty much running 9:00 minute miles at this point. Hoping that somewhere on the downhills I would make it up. I still had Mr Boston Marathon shirt in my sights.
We passed the Philadelphia Zoo and up to Memorial Hall (the second and last big hill) and I felt a little back to my normal self again. As we rounded the traffic circle to head down to Martin Luther King Jr. Drive I caught up to the man in the Boston shirt and introduced myself. I mentioned I had been following his pace for the last 8 miles and he said he had noticed me running back and forth (I hope I didn’t come across as a stalker!) and introduced himself as Dave. We ran alongside each other for a while chatting until my walk break, caught up again and continued for about half a mile or so before he was ahead of me again.
Around the half way mark I was still maintaining my 9:00 minute pace so all wasn’t lost. It was after rounding the Philadelphia Museum of Art when all the half marathon runners disappear that the course really becomes less crowded. It’s a long run out and back from here on in. Running up Kelly Drive was into the wind again. While not as strong as it had been earlier in the day (probably because the buildings had more of a wind tunnel effect) it was still fairly noticeable.
Around mile 14 Dave joined me. He wasn’t having the greatest day either and he joined me in run/walking for about a mile or so. We chatted about his races and I found out he lives locally so it’s a close to home race for him too. He had run Boston twice and had a better PR than me…all the more reason to run with him 🙂
At mile 15 I stopped for water at the next water station, Dave was running with a water backpack and I dropped back a little from him. My pace had now dropped to 9:30 minutes per mile. Eek. Well, let’s just get in from here. There is a small out and back on the other side of the river from mile 17-18. I saw Dave on his way back as I was running down. I had a little work to catch back up to him. This is my least favorite part of the race. It’s just to get the distance in on the course. It’s quick. A downhill but a miserable uphill. Nothing great but heck, it’s between mile 17 and 18. Once back over the bridge we turn left and make the gradual climb up to Manayunk.
Manayunk is usually a nice place to get your second wind. Although it is situated at the part in the race where many people are close to hitting the wall (mile 20) it’s always heavily populated with spectators and supporters. I did notice this year that although there were plenty of people around it was less crowded than I ever remembered in past years. The weather may have had something to do with it (and maybe the Eagles game that afternoon). Still, at mile 20 when someone hands you an orange….aaah bliss.
My favorite part of this race is the turnaround at mile 20. I know it’s a 10K from here. It’s not all flat but I know I can make it. I had slowed to 10:00 minute mile pace from here. Not great but not a disaster. Still moving. That’s what counts.
As I excited Manayunk around mile 21 I caught up with Dave again. We ran together for a little but he admitted he was hurting quite a bit. I stayed with him but he told me to run my race and he would be okay. I told him I would see him at the finish line and wished him well.
From then on it was a slow steady run to the end. The headwind we ran into was now a crosswind. I wasn’t hurting but I wasn’t setting my race alight with any change in pace. I was just head down committed to my run/walk breaks. I know I wasn’t going to break 4 hours at this stage. There was no way I could make up the pace but my goal was to break 4:15 for the day. I felt confident I would finish as I’ve been in this position before and knew my body could get there. I did manage to drop my pack back to under 10:00 minutes per mile, actually dropping a 9:30 minute mile in there somewhere (must have been flat!!). With less than a mile to go I dug deep and found a kick (not a big one mind you) to get me down the last quarter-mile to the finish. I needed my high five from the Mayor!!!
I made it to the finish line under 4:10. That was good enough for me today. Wasn’t my greatest race. I had missed out on most of my race goals. It didn’t go according to plan, but anytime you can cross the finish line of a marathon is definitely a good day in my books.
Not my best. Not my worst.
I was relieved though that it was over. I wasn’t hurting, just tired. It was my 4th marathon of the year and (sitting here writing this many weeks later) I will admit that my legs have been tired since the Marine Corps Marathon.
This is the lady I chose to get my medal from. I was happy to see her.
I crossed the finish line. I look happy.
Philly does a really good job at the finish line. Although there are lines for the post race food, there is always plenty of water, mylar blankets and a lot of food. The best part is that they give you a bag to carry it in. Only the second race this year where that happened. It’s tough to be holding water and all your extra post race fuel. Nice touch Philly, nice touch.
As I had promised, I waited for Dave at the finish line. It wasn’t too long before he made it across and I was glad to see he made it. I could see he wasn’t feeling too comfortable but he was still smiling.
Dave and I together at the finish line.
That’s what is great about running. I meet plenty of people out and about and it’s great when you get to share an experience with someone. A week after the race Dave had a significant health scare but thanks to his level of fitness he is back on his feet again and I’m sure it’s only a matter of time before he is outpacing me.
Now to the medal. Wow. What a great medal. I think it easily out does all my runDisney medals. Philadelphia did a great job replicating the Liberty Bell. It actually works as a bell to. It was so funny hearing all the ringing as I was walking back to my car. I’m sure thousands of little angels were getting their wings that day LOL.
It really rings.
Move over runDisney. I have a new favorite medal.
The Full and Half Marathon medals side by side.
Once home I quickly showered and as per usual, didn’t relax. It was only a couple of hours later that I was back out at Sesame Place with my kids. Hey, I have to keep moving.
Shouldn’t every marathon be followed up with a trip to a theme park?
Then onto one of my favorite places for an after race celebration.
The boys ate like they had run the full marathon.
I love this event. I can’t wait to run it again. I also know there is sub 3:50 in me somewhere.
Thanks for reading.
(Apologies to you all for my late posting of this entry. I typically like to get my race reports done within a week of the race. Sorry. Family, work, life.)
What can I say about February which doesn’t involve a treadmill? Of the 163 miles run during the month only 14 of them were outdoors and one was even during a snow storm…I was that desparate to go out. I did get to go out on my birthday though and also once in 5 degree temperatures (that was fun!!!). I had to try out the new earphones that I got for my birthday (BOSE SoundSport). Truly excellent sound and they stay firmly in place when I run.
My birthday run
5 degrees of pure fun (brrr)
On the bright side the days are getting a little longer and we are closer to Spring.
I also took a spin in a pair of Hoka Constant. I do this once a year and try a new shoe. As the old adage says, if it ain’t broke, don’t fix it. Yes, I’m still with my Brooks shoes as a consequence.
Worth a try, but not for me.
The organizers finally decided upon a race date for the postponed Philadelphia Rock ‘n’ Roll Half Marathon this Fall. It is usually mid-September but the Pope is visiting Philadelphia that weekend. This is a race my wife and I usually run together. The date was announced as October 31, 2015. Well, what do you know? A race on Halloween. I am sensing some costume ideas coming together. We signed up as soon as they announced that registration was open. I already have a costume in my shopping cart on Amazon.com (those birthday vouchers come in handy).
So here’s to goodbye to snowy February and anciticipation of March and the welcome return to Spring weather and the great outdoors!!!
Over the last three plus years since I began running many people have asked me why I run. We all have our reasons how we began and why we continue to do so and I am only to happy to share my story with them. But very often people ask me questions like:
Don’t your knees hurt running all the time?
I don’t know how you have the energy to do it?
How can you run that long and not be bored?
These are generally accompanied by statements like:
I’m not in shape, I could never do that!
I have (insert problem) so I wouldn’t be able do what you do!
I wouldn’t last even a mile running!
I would get bored after ‘X’ miles/minutes!
Here I am going to share the ‘HOW’ and see if these questions and comments can be answered. Here goes…
1. Set attainable goals
I never thought that when I started the Couch to 5K program that I would ever be a marathon runner? I didn’t. But I set myself a goal. Finish the 5K program. This program took me from being a non-runner to being able to complete a 5K (3.1 miles) in 9 weeks. It was hard. I had shin splints, I had a hard time with stairs for a while. I had to repeat week 5 at least twice. I struggled. But you know what? I finished. I was amazed I went from nothing to running a 5K. I had started a new habit of running 2-3 times a week and built on my progress from there. Now I run 5 days a week.
2. Get fitted for shoes at a proper running store
Once I had run up to 3.1 miles it was time to get some real runner’s equipment. Shoes. I went to a local running store where I had my running gait analyzed by an experienced runner. Don’t concern yourself with looks and colors. Take their advice. Be prepared to spend a bit…but not too much…to get a good fitting shoe that will serve your needs.
3. Find a race
As I completed my Couch to 5K program I started to look at what I wanted to do next. I set my sights on completing a local 5 mile race that the local running club holds every Thanksgiving. It wasn’t easy, I didn’t manage to run the whole way but I completed the race with a decent pace (for me at that time). At that point that was the longest distance I had ever run. I then targeted what was is one of the major running events near me, the Philadelphia Broad Street Run. As part of my training I started running more and more 5K races to get used to racing and also as a dress rehearsal for ‘big events’. I’ve built up my race experience with longer distances since then.
4. Celebrate the little successes
By Thanksgiving in 2010 I had finished my first race (the 5 miler) and had at that time lost around 20lbs. I headed for a family vacation in Florida and took all my new running gear with a goal of running 30 miles over the vacation. On my final day of vacation I ran 6 miles (my longest run to date at that time). I achieved that and made sure to reward myself. I hit up the Nike outlet for some goodies.
I’ve used this success and reward cycle to keep building myself up. These successes were running 3 times a week, running 4 times a week, running 8 miles, running 10 miles. I’ve always made sure to celebrate in some way however small. Now after every marathon I treat myself to a new pair of shoes (typically just a different color of the same model shoe) as this inspires me to get out there and keep training.
5. Take some chances
So having registered to run the 2011 Broad Street Run I continued to build on my mileage. As I had recently completed 10 miles in training my wife encouraged me to sign up for my first Half Marathon (the Bucks County Half Marathon). It was held in Tyler State Park where I now do most of my marathon training although it was new to me at that time. The week before the race I decided to take a trial run to see how I might do on the course. I printed of a map and started running. Unfortunately I had the map upside down but it taught me how hilly the park was!!! So with only a couple of weeks between signing up and running my first half marathon I felt great that I took that leap (or push) and took that chance. Now it gave me the confidence for Broad Street.
Every race distance I complete, every PR I earn now gives me the confidence to step up my game and toe the line for a new challenge.
6. Maintaining the motivation
Now what? I had completed a Half Marathon, I had run Broad Street, what was next on the plan? I hadn’t looked too far forward at this stage as I had still been running for less than a year. I set a new challenge. Break 2 hours for a Half Marathon. I set my sights on another local race, the 2011 Rock and Roll Philadelphia Half Marathon. This meant that I couldn’t slack off during the summer as I was still a newbie and needed to build up again to a half marathon distance. This is what got me out of the door after Broad Street.
Today I look to plan my race calendar for at least the next 6-12 months in advance so that I can plan my training, have set goals and keep myself committed.
7. Listen to your body
Early in my running as I was continuing my training and increasing my distance running I started to become more and more uncomfortable with my right knee and ultimately I went to see a doctor. I did not want to stop running but I was waking up in the middle of the night with discomfort and it was getting painful on my daily 110 mile round trip commute.
I was referred to a physical therapist who had me run on the treadmill and she analysed my problem. I was an over-pronator. Although I had stability shoes I needed additional support and was recommended for some shoe inserts (over the counter were sufficient for me). I visited the physical therapist for a 6 week period twice a week and performed a series of exercises to build up the stability muscles around my knees, to learn how to stretch and to focus on my running form. I was also recommended as part of this to get re-fitted for shoes which I did. I have been in Brooks Adrenaline shoes ever since. (Over time as my body has got stronger I have moved away from the need for the inserts and now run with shoes straight out of the box).
By the end of the 6 week treatment I was stronger, my knees were aligned and I had a new focus on my running form that would go on to be a go to mental technique I now incorporate towards the end of races when I am getting tired. I was a fitter and renewed runner. I’ve learned to listen to the aches and pains when they occur and know when to rest and back off. I’ve also come more accustomed to the training. Where I once would have hurt or struggled for a couple of days after a long run I know how to self treat post run for better recovery. A lot of this is just experience and building up your own endurance.
I also started reading about running and training methods. Through my research I came across Jeff Galloway and his ‘Run-Walk-Run’ method. Learning about the method and applying it in training and racing has enabled me to achieve goals that at the beginning of my journey seemed out of touch. His methods have also allowed me to stay pretty much injury free as it changes up the muscles I am using through the intervals and also has allowed me to recover quicker.
8. Set bigger goals
After these little successes I set my sights on a bigger challenge, completing my first marathon. I signed up with the Runner’s World Challenge to run the 2011 Philadelphia Marathon which provided me with a training plan, supporting community and a daily e-mail providing encouragement (plus a cool shirt and a book on road racing).
Training for a marathon is a life changing experience. Never did I think that setting the alarm for 3am, strapping on a headlamp and a reflective vest would be something I would do but you get to a point where your habit becomes your lifestyle and something just ‘clicks’ and you do it because you want to do it. To date I have done 8 marathons (including a couple of multi-day distance events at Walt Disney World).
9. Preventative care
It’s not just putting in the miles that makes be a better runner, I have to look after my body as that is my tool to achieve my goals. I had already started dieting to lose weight prior to starting running but to run distance you have to fuel right. It isn’t about cutting out calories for the most part I probably eat more than I used to these days but it is eating the right foods at the right time in the right quantities. It’s about keeping the metabolism going.
I definitely eat more healthily than I used to. I seldom eat fried food or red meat anymore, anytime I do I definitely feel a difference. I seldom drink alcohol these days although I will partake in moderation. I guess that is the word, ‘moderation’. I still have a very sweet tooth. I look to satisfy my cravings with healthier alternatives but I also don’t beat myself up if I indulge from time to time. I journal all my food in the LoseIt app. I’ve been using that every day for almost 4 years now. It keeps me focused and in check.
I also get regular chiropractic adjustments. I go every 3 to 4 weeks to visit Dr Bagnell who has seen me go from being unfit and overweight to 50lbs light with my current fitness levels and he has commented on how different and beneficial it has been to my overall health. It is like a regular tune up for my body. A little realignment goes a long way. I’m pounding pavement for hour after hour, then I sit at a desk all day and drive a car for at least 2.5 hours a day. If I didn’t get myself in alignment regularly I would just be creating problems for myself and lead to long-term injury as I tried to over compensate for any discomfort. Training pushes your body to the limits, but if you can maintain your engine then your body will be kind to you and your recovery will be faster.
10. Have fun
You may have noticed from some of my previous posts that I like to have fun when I run. One of the best things that resulted from me running is that I get to run races with my wife. We are a good team. We both have somewhat different training schedules but we do run events together. I guess I am lucky that my wife is also a keen runner (we started within months of each other) and we get to share experiences together, visit new places and have a unique opportunity to sight see when we travel, for example running through all four Disney Parks at Walt Disney World, running along Niagara Falls and running across the Golden Gate Bridge in San Francisco.
Running across the Golden Gate Bridge in San Francisco
Running also happened to allow me to be a big kid again. I think you may have been able to tell that I am a big Disney fan. Well running has allowed me some unique experiences (through runDisney) like running races in full costume It has also enabled me to raise over $8,000 (to date) for charity.
Running in EPCOT at the 2013 Disney Family 5K
Running through EPCOT at the 2014 inaugural Walt Disney World 10K
That’s how I got to be where I am and how I stay motivated. What do you do differently? Share your methods and motivations in the comments below.
Last weekend I ran the 2014 Bucks County Half Marathon. This was my very first half marathon back in April 2011 (my wife convinced me to sign up two weeks prior to the event that time). I also ran the event back in 2012 but it didn’t fit into my training program for last year’s New Jersey Marathon. This year, however, the plan called for 12 miles so this was a good fit.
It is held in Tyler State Park in Richboro, PA and is about 10 minutes for my house. I have trained in there for a number of my marathons. It is a great place to run. As I was driving to the event that morning I realized I became one of those people who paid to run somewhere I typically run for free. I guess that makes me a ‘real runner’ LOL.
The packet pickup was pretty simple. It was held at the Newtown Athletic Club. There wasn’t an expo but they did have some race merchandise (new this year). The club was local so I was able to run in/out quickly so as not to mess up our day. This was great because my last few races have had packet pickups which have not been very convenient. Did I tell you that I love local races?
The weather forecast for the event was much better than in the previous two weeks (see LOVE Run and Hot Chocolate Run recaps) so I was looking forward to actually staying warm and dry. I set up my gear the night before as always before a race and chose to wear my newest shoes which I plan to wear for the marathon to get a few miles/long runs on them before the big day. They are a little red don’t you think?
Race ready with my red shoes
Being a local race I didn’t have to get up at the crack of dawn like usual. With a 10 minute drive and no parking issues that I knew of I planned to leave the house around 7am for an 8am start. No problem…or so I thought. It looks like everyone else had the same idea. Yup…panic sets in when you are stuck trying to get into the park and it is already 7:30. I took a couple of pictures outside the park as I and dozens of others were trying to get to the starting area.
So….I guess everyone is local. This was the line outside trying to get into the park
This was the line inside the park waiting to park
I finally made it into the parking lot, stretched by my car and walked a couple of hundred yards to the starting area. First things first when you get to a race close to the start time…you hit the port-a-potties. Again, everyone had the same idea. Ugh! There were about a dozen port-a-potties for about 700 people. I stood in line as the clock ticked down to the start time. The line didn’t really move. Ugh! Well…I looked around and saw that a few people were making their way across an adjacent field. What happens in the woods, stays in the woods.
Nature literally calls…
The race was set to start at 8am (at least I thought it did). Actually, and thankfully, it started around 8:15am. I think there may have been a deliberate delay as when I was walking from the parking lot there were a few folks from the race crew running up and back with walkie-talkies. I figure they recognized the bottle neck of people trying to get into the park so pushed the start back.
Folks relaxing in the starting corral
There were no corrals like in bigger races. The faster runners placed themselves up near the front and everyone else kind of either stood with friends, near the back if they were walking or just stood where they were. I saw someone I knew (Jason) and headed back to wish him good luck. The National Anthem was sung and off we went.
Now the one thing about starting near the ‘Arts Center’ at Tyler is that by the center there is space to mill around (see the corral photo above) but within a couple of hundred yards from the start line the pathway significantly narrows. At best you can have 3 people run side by side comfortably. As you progress down that path (it’s a downhill) the sides off the path drop away so there is not much opportunity to pass other runners unless you like to live dangerously and don’t need both ankles to run on. Needless to say the first half mile pretty soon became a bottle neck. That is not the fault of the organizers but more a limit of the terrain in the park.
The race didn’t have waved corrals and the one corral we did have wasn’t stacked by pace like I have seen in other races. I have been to other races when everyone goes in one big wave but they have put out signs within the corral based upon pace so people could line up under 7:00/mile, 8:00/mile, 9:00/mile, etc which meant that people would start out with similar paced runners and that would somewhat alleviate bottle necks and people trying to pass in the first half mile or so. Just a thought.
It was actually too crowded that it was really unsafe for me to do my usual run/walk interval (currently using 4:00/0:45) because I feared it would be too dangerous for me to stop. Now I don’t necessarily have to take my walk intervals so I ended up skipping the first two intervals and ran the first mile with the other runners until there was enough space around me to make it safe to move over to the side for a walk break. The temperatures were already rising so I took water in early and pretty much skipped only a couple of water stations when they were close together.
The course for the race is a small loop of 3 miles and then two 5 mile loops. The 5 mile loop is my usual circuit so I knew what to expect and where the hills were. Interestingly the 3 mile loop was different from when I ran in 2011 and 2012. Where in previous times I had run an outer loop of the park down a steep hill back to the boat house area, this took a slightly less elevated route through the local elementary school parking lot and through a parking lot within the park and back along the creek which we had run on the way out on the 3 mile loop. It was nice as I was not looking forward to the larger hill that early in the race. Nice to run something a little different.
Heading downhill on the initial 3 mile loop
From here it was the usual (or should I say ‘my usual’) loop past the boat house and around the back of Bucks County Community College, past the farm and up the big hill towards the residential side of the park (I envy those houses every time I run past them). This loop repeats twice and with its long winding up hill direction it is usually my slowest part of the run. Today was no different. I seemed to be managing a decent pace considering and was able to keep my pace per mile below 9 minutes given the rising temperatures and the inclines. I was monitoring my heart rate as I have struggled in the past in this section and slowed myself down once I was close to 170bpm. This time I was doing fine and enjoying the run. You can see from my Garmin Activity the course and elevation.
This is one of the ‘smaller’ hills which we ran around miles 4.5 and 9.5
Once you hit the part of the loop past the houses there is a nice downhill section where you can easily make up time until you round the corner to the starting/finish line area which we would run through on the first loop. The course was open to walkers. On the first loop we passed the walkers as we came back on ourselves before mile 3. We (or I) didn’t pass too many walkers until the second loop. I will commend them as a group as even in the narrow parts of the course no-one was blocking runners coming up behind them and they all seemed to be having a good time.
Personally this was a race that I wasn’t totally ‘racing’ but did have a time expectation not a time goal. I have been trying to focus on improving my speed going into the New Jersey Marathon at the end of April and I figure a good run in Tyler with all those hills is a good sign of my fitness/conditioning. The last two races I had run (LOVE Run Half Marathon and Hot Chocolate 15K) had been good performances for me averaging 8:34/mile for the half and 8:46 for the 15K so I was keen to keep my pace under 9:00/mile in Tyler which would lead to a sub 2-hour time. I wasn’t looking to push too hard or PR as I was supposed to be in ‘taper’ mode and this was scheduled to be a ‘long run’. The run itself felt comfortable. I never felt like I was pushing nor did I feel like I was running too easy and ultimately my finish time reflected this. I was very happy with my time. I was under 2 hours and beat my 2012 finish time. That made for two sub 2-hour half marathons in 15 days. I finished with an official time of 1:56:45 with an average pace of 8:54.
Happy at the finish line
The medal goes well with my very red shoes. I think I need a running outfit makeover.
A good day
The finisher medal was in the shape of Bucks County, PA and was nice. Very impressed that the actual medal ribbon had different scenes of Bucks County printed on it.
The ‘Bucks’ bling
I joked that the medal was in the shape of a map in case I got lost. That is not too far from the truth. The very first time I ran in Tyler park was a week before the event in 2011. I printed off the course map with a plan to run 10 miles (at that point my longest run to date). I learned quickly that there are many routes in Tyler and also being new to this park its best not to hold the map upside down when you run. I’m definitely better at that these days 😉
The finish line area was in the small parking lot to the side of the start line. There was water, soft pretzels, bananas and even pizza. There were some local vendors who were sponsoring the race so they had samples of their wares. There were smoothie samples (which I skipped) and there were bread/cake samples (which I didn’t skip…multiple times). The crowds were decent at the finish line for a local race. I only saw a few folks around the park cheering others on but seeing as this was a 5 mile loop it made most sense to stay near the start/finish line area as you would see your runner pass by as they began the second and final loop and it was great to hear the encouragement.
One thing I did notice was that there were spectators in the finish line area eating some of the pizza and other refreshments. I didn’t stay too long as I had a busy family day ahead. I heard from another member of my running team (Mickey Milers) the next day that for the walkers the post race refreshment area was packed up by the time that they finished. Only the timing mats were out to record their finish time. The race website said that the race was open to walkers so it seems a shame that they didn’t get to experience the same benefits that the runners did. I hope in future years that everyone is treated equally.
Overall it was a great day for a run and a nice (if not familiar) race. Would I return again? Perhaps depending on my schedule. The novelty of running a half marathon in Tyler Park where I do a lot of training doesn’t thrill me as much as it used to but the atmosphere was good. I would recommend this race to folks who don’t train here as it is a good challenge in nice scenery.
Up next I have to get through the taper, learn to manage with limited mileage and catch up on my sleep. I take away from this the confidence that I am maintaining my goal pace of sub 9:00/mile going into the New Jersey Marathon. Fingers crossed I run a sensible and comfortable race. This was a nice warm up for me.