May 2016 – Month in review

Okay, so I know this is late June as I write, but May is still technically last month so I’m squeezing in a late ‘Month in review’ (you’ll understand why below).

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May 2016 – Nike+ Summary

At the beginning of the month my wife and I ran the 2016 New Jersey Marathon. You can see the distance recorded at the start of the monthly summary. What you see after that is a long gap of 9 days between runs and a total of just under 84 miles run in the month. I shall explain shortly. As you can see from my Garmin data below (where I record all activities swim/bike/run) I covered a total of 288 miles (8 miles swimming, 196 miles on the bike and 84 miles running) as my focus after the marathon was on training for my half iron distance triathlon in July.

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May 2016 – Garmin Connect Summary

As I mentioned in the review of the 2016 New Jersey Marathon, it was a very wet and cold day. After the race I came down with a cold and a bad sinus infection which resulted in a nice expensive journey to the Minute Clinic early on a Sunday morning to get a prescription for some antibiotics. In addition to this, I had a pretty bad cough which led to some sore chest and back muscles. I took a few days of rest to help everything clear up. I thought I was doing okay so I got up on the morning of the 10th to do a bike workout and as I bent over to put on my bike cleats I threw my back out. Ouch….a long crawl back to bed where I was laid flat on my back for two days with a strained sacroiliac joint. That kind of put a damper on all the triathlon training I had planned.

I ended up missing almost two weeks of my training plan and was getting a little concerned as I haven’t gone beyond a sprint triathlon before. Multiple trips to the chiropractor over a series of a few days, lots of ice and heat treatment and I started to loosen up. My wife was the race director for an inaugural 5K for her company and we had been the first to sign up. I was a little concerned about running still so I took an easy 2 mile run the day before to see if all was okay. Thankfully it was. No sign of any recurrence. I was feeling good going into the race.

The morning of the 5K my wife left early to set up so I headed down with my Father-in-law and the boys. My Father-in-law and I were running the 5K and the boys were running in the 1 mile run which took place after the 5K had completed. We got to Cooper River Park early and my boys went straight to the post race refreshment table. I don’t even want to know how many donuts they ate while I was getting everyone’s bibs for the race. I was still a little concerned about my back but the park looked pretty flat so I thought I would see what kind of pace I could maintain as I don’t run many shorter distance races these days.


My favorite Race Director


Ready to run the Freedom Mortgage 5K and 1 mile Fun Run

I actually ended up running a very decent pace (although the race was actually more than a half mile longer than a 5K). I ended up 10th overall and placed 3rd in my age group with a sub 8 minute pace. Pretty happy considering that I was laid flat on my back a few days earlier.


Good enough for 3rd place in my age group.


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


Looking good


Priceless. Crossing the finish line


Two very happy boys.


My eldest however didn’t realize how many laps made up the mile distance. It took him a few minutes to recover.

With the boys new-found excitement for running we decided to do what we could to encourage them to do some more. I signed both boys up for another 1 mile fun run on July 4th (the Washington Crossing Revolutionary Run which I ran last year) and I also signed them up for the new Disney Shorts Virtual 5K. We plan to train with them all summer and run the actual 5K when we are on vacation in Myrtle Beach in late August. I will give them their medals and they can wear them around the beach resort.


Mickey Shorts medal

We took the boys out to run along the Delaware Canal Towpath over the Memorial Day weekend which was a lot of fun. Hot, but fun. As we did when we ran with them in the stroller together, we started and finished outside of our favorite bakery so there was some incentive to their efforts.


Running south on the canal on our first outing.


Running north on the canal on our second outing.


Running back to the bakery on our second outing.

Now that I was feeling back to normal it was headfirst into the triathlon training. I’ve trained many times for marathons but this was a whole lot different and much more intense. I guess it’s the daily double workouts typically about an hour each which is the main difference. I am doing my second workouts sometimes after the boys are in bed and it is pretty late for someone like me who is usually an early bird when it comes to training.

The biking and running brick workouts on Saturday are typically more time than I spend exercising especially when I still have my long runs to do on Sundays. It is worth it to achieve my goals but it is exhausting. I’m sure it will all pay off as I have put in a lot of effort to try not to miss any scheduled workouts. I am feeling much better with my swim. I still have my concerns about the bike but I am at least feeling a little more comfortable in the saddle. You can see from the summary below how much time I am putting into this.

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Training Peaks workout summary for the triathlon training.

And  how early I am getting up to do these workouts (from my Fitbit sleep tracking).


With all this extra training, it does build confidence. I am feeling stronger in the pool and I’m actually enjoying and looking forward to my swim sessions. The bike, I’m still ‘eh’ for now but hopefully I’ll be more comfortable as my training progresses in June.

Thanks for taking the time to read. Apologies for the late write-up. As I said when I began, technically it is still last month so I’m getting in before the SAG wagon creeps up on me.

September 2015 – Month in review

Septmber 2015 – Nike+ Summary

September 2015 – Nike+ Summary

Another busy month. According to my Nike app I ran 143 miles and my MapMyFitness calendar showed I had a total of 207 miles (143 miles running, 62 miles cycling and 2 miles swimming). 

September - Map My Fitness

September – Map My Fitness

This month included the Hightstown Triathlon, my 3rd(ish) and last triathlon of the year and also the last few weeks of training for the Marine Corps Marathon so plenty of training during the month in preparation.

Fall definitely made an appearance during the month but luckily it was still fairly warm during the triathlon so I was able to enjoy the last days of summer. Our boys went back to school, my youngest is now in Kindergarten so both boys are together again at the local elementary school.

My two guys heading into school together

My two guys heading into school together

Also, as he has now moved up to Kindergarten, he is now at Sunday school every week vs every other week like last year. This allowed my wife and I to have 3 hours together on Sunday mornings so we were able to get some marathon training in together which was a great as we probably hadn’t had a chance to run together as a couple since the Pittsburgh Marathon back in May.

Nice opportunity to get out on the trail together

Nice opportunity to get out on the trail together

We’ve been taking the opportunity to get some of the long runs in along the Delaware Canal as it is fairly flat but very close to where we take the kids for Sunday school so we can save some time. It’s been great running there as the temperatures have cooled. We changed our route up a bit this year and crossed over the Delaware River at Washington’s Crossing so we ran both on the Pennsylvania side and the New Jersey side. Just to mix things up. On one of the times we were running together we crossed back to the PA side and saw a group of Revolutionary War re-enactors walking around Washington Crossing Park. We got a bit of a surprise when they started shooting off muskets and it didn’t really help when we ran through the park and my wife pointed out to them that I was British…thanks Babe, appreciate that.


The British are running...the British are running...

The British are running…the British are running…

Work is ramping up again so I am back to traveling for a while and finding some time to squeeze my training in. I find fitting the swim training in a bit more difficult as I’m not close to my gym but I did manage to find an LA Fitness near the hotel in Atlanta to allow me to get a swim day in before the triathlon. My triathlon races are done for now for this year and once I am back home during the winter months I can ramp that up again with plans for next year.

So we end the month just a few weeks away from our big race of the year, the Marine Corps Marathon. My wife and I are really looking forward to running this together. We will be travelling down without the boys this time around as it is going to be a pretty quick trip. I definitely want to take them next summer to visit the museums and enjoy the sites. That will be a fun vacation. We can scope it all out as we are running along the route.

My upcoming race calendar should now be set through the end of the year (perhaps):

October 25 – Marine Corps Marathon (Washington, DC) – This will be our first time running this event.

October 31 – Rock and Roll Philadelphia Half Marathon – I ran this event on my own in 2012 and as a couple in 2013 and 2014.

November 1 – Cooper Norcross Run the Bridge (Camden, NJ) – I ran this event for the first time in 2013.

November 22 – Philadelphia Marathon – In 2011 this was my first marathon and also the first where I broke 4 hours in 2012. My wife and I ran this together in 2013.

November 26 – Bucks County Road Runners Thanksgiving 5 Miler (Langhorne, PA) – We try to run this every year (since we started running) and only missed it last year by being out of town. Here is my last recap of that race.

Looking forward to October and beyond. Thank you for reading.

Bucks County Duathlon – race recap

Bucks County Duathlon

Bucks County Duathlon

This weekend I participated in the 5th annual Bucks County Duathlon. This is a combined 2 mile run, 10 mile ride and 2 mile run which starts and finishes at Washington Crossing Park on the Pennsylvania side of the Delaware River alongside the Delaware Canal (the same location of my recent marathon).

I had participated in this event in 2011 (on a borrowed bicycle) and in 2012 (on my own bicycle) and had to miss it in 2013 for a family wedding. It’s a small event, less than 200 people, but some of these folks are serious triathletes and their clubs were represented by team tents at the staging area. It is used as a fundraiser to support Missy Flynn, a local triathlete who suffered a brain aneurysm back in 2010 and needs help and support for ongoing medical costs.

Race packet pickup was held at the Newtown Bike Store in the week leading up to the event. Race swag was a technical t-shirt with a silhouette of the famous ‘Washington Crossing the Delaware’ painting.

I set up my gear the night before and planned to wear my INKnBURN ‘Rock and Roll’ shirt with my tri-shorts. Ever so stylish, although the British theme for a race at Washington Crossing Park may have seemed like an odd choice 😉

'Flat Ian' the night before

‘Flat Ian’ the night before

The race started at 8am on Sunday morning but you needed to leave enough time to set up your bicycle and related gear in the transition area. I arrived with enough time to check my tires, pick a spot near the end of a row and set out my cycling shoes (my bicycle uses clip pedals), helmet, gloves, etc. I also brought out my old Garmin 305 multisport watch. Having run with the Garmin Forerunner 220 since earlier this year it seemed huge but does what I needed. I only switched to the 220 because the 305 took forever to locate my position. I had plenty of time for the GPS to find me on race day.

It's big but it does the trick

It’s big but it does the trick

I set up my gear and waited for the start of the race.

My wheels

My wheels

Ready to go

All set up

The race consisted of a 2 mile loop starting in the park, out along the canal and back to the transition area. There was a timing mat at the entrance and exit of the transition area where you had to walk (run) your bike out and back in. The ride consisted of an out and back 2.5 mile ride which we did twice for a total of 10 miles before the returning our bicycles and running the second loop which was the same as the first.

Ready to start

Ready to start

Start and finish was in the same location

Start and finish was in the same location

photo 4

Transition area

Trnasition area

Transition area

The race director gave pre-race instructions around 7:45am and we all lined up according to our waves. It was elites first then age groups male and female every minute after. One of the athletes played the National Anthem on their trumpet and then the horn sounded and the waves all went off as directed.

I ran the first loop pretty steadily. As each running leg was short I decided to not use my usual run/walk/run method and just go for it. I didn’t go all out as I knew I still had a ride and a second run to do but I did push a little harder than my regular pace. This paid off with a first leg of the duathlon running splits less than 8 minutes/mile.

photo 2

First leg of the race – 2 mile run

First leg of the race - 2 mile run

First leg of the race – 2 mile run

Even though I was passed by many runners soon after the start, along the course of the 2 miles I managed to keep a steady pace and reel a few of the runners back and pass then in the last half mile or so. Based upon the results I was placed 68/141 for the first run.

From there it was on to the transition area. This seemed to go fine although I did struggle to put on one of my running gloves in the humidity and rush of the morning. Then I ran my bicycle out of the transition area to where we were allowed to mount the bicycle and headed off on the road for the ride leg of the event.

Leaving the transition area

Leaving the transition area

This is where I was separated from the real triathletes in the race. I own a hybrid bicycle (Trek FX 7.2) not a road or tri bicycle that it seemed the majority of folks out there were riding. Now as fast as my legs could pedal I was being passed constantly on the second half of the ride. Those with the right gear (lightweight/aerodynamic) just flew past me on the road.

Being followed by a local police cruiser...not for speeding obviously!!!

Being followed by a local police cruiser…not for speeding obviously!!!

I averaged about 16 miles per hour on the road (it was fairly flat) but the speedier folks were pushing well beyond 20 miles per hour and it showed as I saw all the folks I had run past were now ahead of me. I was placed 114/141 for the bicycle portion. Ouch!!!

Second leg of the race - 10 mile ride

Second leg of the race – 10 mile ride

Second leg of the race - 10 mile ride

Second leg of the race – 10 mile ride

Then back to the transition area. This is the point in the race that I always joke that the difference between the first and last runs are you start out like Forrest Gump and come back like Lieutenant Dan. I started to run on the third and final part of the race and my legs were like jelly. I could just about feel my feet and it just felt weird for at least the first half mile. I just made constant motion and moved forward as best I could.

I was a little slower for the third part of the race, but then so was everyone else. Like before I didn’t use the run/walk/run method and just went for it as best I could. Not flat-out as my legs probably would not have taken that effort, but just fast enough to maintain a sub 8 minute mile. I noticeably passed more people on this second run and this showed as I finished this final leg 44/141, better than the first run even though the time was 2 seconds slower. I pushed hard for this last leg.

Final leg of the race - 2 mile run

Final leg of the race – 2 mile run

Final leg of the race - 2 mile run

Final leg of the race – 2 mile run

Overall I came in with a combined time (including the two transitions) of 1:11:37, a PR of 5:01 over my 2012 efforts placing 84/141. Next to all those serious tri-guys I was happy with this result. 🙂

Final Results

Final Results

Boom!!! A new PR

Boom!!! A new PR

In the post race area there were places to check your final times as well as post race refreshments (bagels with cream cheese, bananas and peanut butter & jelly sandwiches). I took to a picnic table to cool down and stretch and enjoy my bagel as I watched the other competitors run in. It was a beautiful but warm morning. I worked pretty hard on the day but was very happy with the result.

With all the runners in I decided to grab my gear and head home (my wife had an 18 mile run planned and it was getting warmer and later in the day). The volunteers in the transition area made sure that everyone’s bib number matched the bicycle tag number (for security reasons) and I headed home. This was the end of my bicycle riding for the season and so I put my Trek back into storage with my bike rack. Now back to focusing on my upcoming running events. Perhaps next year is the year I turn the ‘Duathlon’ into a ‘Triathlon’…

A good day for a PR as I headed home.

A good day for a PR as I headed home.

Thanks for reading.

Upcoming races:

September 21 – Rock and Rock Philadelphia Half Marathon

October 18 – Baltimore Marathon

November – Thanksgiving race in Florida – TBD (anything from a 5K to a Half Marathon)

January 10-11 – Walt Disney World Goofy Challenge

If you are interested in any of the INKnBURN gear, please feel free to use my Ambassador code (INBians14) on their site for a 15% discount on any of their merchandise. Take a look at their site and hope you find something you might like to try.

‘Chasing the Unicorn’ Marathon race recap


Last Sunday I completed the ‘Chasing the Unicorn‘ Marathon along the Delaware Canal at Washington Crossing in PA. The good is that I completed the race, the bad, well let’s just get it out of the way, I missed my goal…by a lot. However, I’m not going to dwell too much on what turned out to be a great weekend anyway. In summary, it was one of my worst races but one of my best finishes. I’ll explain below.

I had signed up for this race based upon the fact that I PR’d earlier this year at the New Jersey Marathon and this included running the last 9 miles into what felt like a wind tunnel. I felt that I could do better. This race was created in 2013 by the Race Director of runBucks (Pat McCloskey) as a late summer chance for folks trying to qualify for the Boston Marathon in 2014. The unicorn is the symbol of the Boston Athletic Assocation.

Boston Athletic Assocation

Boston Athletic Assocation

You can read about my reasons for signing up in my previous post (‘Chasing The Unicorn…or at least trying‘). So with sights set on improving my PR I followed Hal Higdon’s Intermediate 2 plan. This was a bit of a step up from the Intermediate 1 plan that I typically use and had higher mileage and an extra 20 mile run in the program. Luckily it was a pretty mild summer in comparison to recent years so all those extra early morning miles were actually quite enjoyable.

Anyway, back to the weekend itself.

On the Saturday evening before the marathon runBucks hosted the Washington Crossing 15K which started at finished in the same place as the marathon on Sunday. My wife had run this race last year and she had registered for it again this year. My wife and I run a lot of races, some together and some separately. Mostly we run separately as one of us is always staying with the boys as these races are typically early mornings. This race started at 5pm on Saturday which meant that we could all attend the race as a family and my wife would have her own (very loud) cheering section.

So after a breakfast of Mickey Mouse waffles (the best way of carb loading) and a full day at Sesame Place with the family we headed to Washington Crossing to cheer my wife on as a family.

Sharing our signs with our favorite runner

Sharing our signs with our favorite runner

Asher's sign

Asher’s sign

Micah's sign

Micah’s sign

My sign

My sign

Ready to go

Ready to go

After the race had begun and everyone was off on their way the race director opened up the bib pick up for the marathon the next day so I headed over and grabbed my bib and race shirt. Then we sat around and waited for the first runners to come back in before taking our place along the finish line chute to cheer on Shari.

Waiting and watching the other runners

Waiting for Mommy and watching the other runners

Here she comes...

Here she comes…

Sprinting to the finish

Sprinting to the finish

...there she goes

…there she goes

My wife beat her time from last year, running a nice pace and pushing hard at the end.

Finish time. Good pace.

Finish time. Good pace.

Of course she was then mobbed by the boys who had been without her for over and hour and were probably tired of me and the waiting around!!!

Her best cheerleaders

Her best cheerleaders

Sharing her bling

Sharing her bling

There was a pavilion at the park where the race director had set up a pasta dinner buffet for post-race and also as a pre-race dinner for tomorrow so we headed over to eat. You would think my boys had were prepping for an ultra-marathon the next day…but they do have good appetites for sure. We even had to make a dessert stop on the way home (although I may have partaken in that too).

Once home we got the kids to bed and now it was my turn to prepare for the marathon the next morning. Based upon the forecast and my wife’s feedback from her race I began to wonder if I should carry water for the race. It was August and I have never run a marathon at this time of the year. The course itself being a double out and back on a narrow footpath meant that water stations were somewhat limited and my wife told me that crossing the two way traffic for water stops might be tricky. With that said, better to carry water and not use it than to run and need water. I decided to race wearing my Nathan Speed 2 hydration belt.

I set out my gear the night before as usual. I planned to wear my new Buddha shirt that I received from my recent INKnBURN grab bag. The grab bag is a selection of shirts that are either no longer made, one off samples or some of their current selection. You don’t know what you are going to get until the package arrives. I was very happy with my selection and opted for a nice bright color. Who says running gear has to be boring. It wasn’t as if I was going to win this race but perhaps I could make the ‘best dressed’ list 😉

'Flat Ian' the night before

‘Flat Ian’ the night before

It’s strange and nice to have a race local and be longer than a 5K. I got up around my usual time when I go out for a long run in the morning and got ready, grabbed my Powerbar and headed out to Washington Crossing. I had stated that I was shooting for a goal time of 3:50 or better. I wasn’t going to qualify for Boston but I knew this was perhaps a stretch goal having only just run 3:54 a few months earlier, but I had trained hard and felt good going into the race.

When I arrived I saw all these elite looking runners and was feeling a little intimidated at first. The night before they had announced that about 30% of the field planned to run 3:25 or better. Eek!!! What was I doing here??? But as I made my way from the parking lot to the starting area I saw other runners who were ’50 State’ runners and ‘Marathon Maniacs’ that looked like they were there for the ‘taking part’ and not just for the ‘BQ’. I also saw a few other runners wearing hydration belts and packs so I felt comfortable with my decision.

Ready to get started. Wearing my INKnBURN Buddha shirt.

Ready to get started. Wearing my INKnBURN Buddha shirt.

It was a cool morning and as we got into the corrals it actually started to rain lightly which was a little unexpected given the forecast. There were about 300 entrants into the race. They had a small early group start around 6:15am and this consisted of some walkers as well as those that may not meet the planned cut off time. The full race was to start at 7:15am. Each wave included about 50 runners. The waves would set off 30 seconds apart so being in wave 3 was just 90 seconds behind the leaders (at the start line).

The course itself was a double out-and-back loop along the Delaware Canal Towpath from Washington Crossing, PA to the turnaround point in New Hope, PA. The path itself is a soft easy trail of mostly crushed stone. It is narrow in places, almost single file, but mostly you could have two-way traffic so we got to see the leaders 2 to 3 times depending upon your pace. The elevation is minimal and for the most part the course is in the shade.

Here is the ‘Map My Run’ version of the course from the runBUCKS website.

Waiting in the corral for my wave.

Waiting in the corral for my wave.

Okay, to the race itself, and also the reason it has taken me over a week to actually post the write up to my blog.

With all the confidence in the world I knew in the back of my mind going in that this was a stretch goal for me. I had reduced my PR already this year by over 4 and a half minutes and I was looking to do the same. I don’t have a coach so I follow a plan and to all intents and purposes I am the one who manages my day to day training. With that in mind all I can say is that I learn a lot from experience. This was going to be one of those learning experiences but I didn’t know that when I started out…

As we started out I quickly went to the front of my wave so I could get ahead of folks early on and make sure that I could maintain my run/walk Galloway intervals (4:00/0:45) without interfering with a big pack of runners. I knew that the canal was narrow and this may be a difficult task (in fact I did have to walk through some messy places to get out the way of folks during the walking intervals) but I seemed to be maintaining my pace with the same folks for the first few miles. I used the same intervals that led to my PR back in late April.

During the first 6-7 miles it rained steadily. This was actually quite cooling and not heavy like the rain I had to run in during The Love Run earlier this year (although it was about 20 degrees warmer which helped). As you can see from my initial splits below I was on pace (actually a little faster) for the first 8 or so miles. To hit 3:50 according to my pace band I should be pacing at 8:47 per mile. I was feeling confident although I noticed that my heart rate was elevated in the normal range but not returning back as normal during the walk breaks. I tend to reach 160-170 bpm’s during the run and it usually hits 120-130 bpm’s at the end of the 45 second walk. This time I was still around 150 bpm’s after the end of each walk break. At this point I hadn’t taken any caffeine or a caffeine infused gels so I wasn’t sure why.

The first part of the race. So far so good.

The first part of the race. So far so good.

It wasn’t until around miles 9 to 10 when I started to feel a bit uncomfortable. I developed a pain in my side, not so much a stitch but an ache. It was a little strange but I couldn’t get rid of it even with a walk break and some water. Thankfully I had my water belt on as the water stations were a little sparse due to the course constraints around the turn around. By mile 11 I had an ache in my stomach which seemed to be more of a hunger pain than anything but I hadn’t done anything different in preparing for this marathon than in any of the other marathons I had run.

I reached the half way point at 1:55 so I was still only a minute or two back from my goal time but I knew I was slowing. The 13.1 mile turnaround was being managed by Tammy, a fellow ‘Mickey Miler’ who I had met with at the race the day before and was volunteering today. It helped to see a smiling face to cheer me at the halfway point. I was hurting at this point. I knew that my goal was probably not going to be met and pretty much made peace with that. It was a stretch goal after all but I figured if I could maintain a decent pace for the second half I might still PR for the day.

The hard part about an out and back, especially a double out and back, is that you know exactly how far you are in to the race and how far you have left to go. I wasn’t tempted to quit at the halfway point even though I could have. That was never on the cards for me. I knew whatever happened I still had to finish whether I made my goal, PR or was struggling.

I struggled for pretty much the second half of the race. It wasn’t a case of the wheels on the bus go round and round…they fell off. Here are my splits for the remainder of the race. You can see the decline in pace. It is quite a drop from 8:30s to 11:30s.

My second set of splits

My second set of splits – the wheels are coming loose 😦

My third set of splits - the wheels are completely off!!!

My third set of splits – the wheels are completely off!!!

I will be honest with you here. I never considered quitting, that’s just not what I want to do or set as an example to my boys. I did consider walking it in. I felt dreadful, empty inside, not in pain but not great. I just made sure I kept shuffling on. It wasn’t my best performance by any means. I set myself little goals in a hope to get to the finish. My heart rate was still high so I started to adjust my intervals to 3:45/1:00 and ultimately I ended up running 2:00/1:00 just to make sure I could keep going as the day got longer and the temperatures got warmer. My goals moved a little but I tried to make them attainable, for example, maintain the pace and break 4 hours. Once that goal was missed I set myself a goal of getting home in less than 4:10 and so on.

It was a little demoralizing but as I struggled in I noticed that no one was passing me. The faster runners had long finished (the winner ran 2:38) but I was still out there going forward. I knew I would eventually finish and as I had spoken with my wife the night before I expected to see my family at the finish line. I had told them that I hoped to be crossing the line around 11am (that would have been a 3:45 goal). My wife and kids were very patient as I missed that time by 30 minutes.

Finally, with about less than 2 miles to go I pushed as best I could. I could see the finish area across the park and buckled down to finish. As I was heading towards the finish line I saw that it was blocked by an ambulance. I younger runner had gone down less than half a mile before the finish line. My wife later told me that she was very worried it was me as she had expected me earlier and there was no news at the finish line other than a male runner had gone down. The EMS crew waved me around the ambulance and then I saw the finish line…and my family.

As I ran towards the finish line I heard my kids yelling out for me and jumping up and down with excitement. They had no clue as to how I was feeling at that point and there was not reason that they needed to know. As I ran up towards them they just beamed their big smiles at me. There was no one else coming in to finish at that time so I went over to the boys and told them to run in with me. I may have been feeling low over the last few miles but their being there for me totally lifted my spirits. We crossed the line as a family and I’ve never been happier to have finished a marathon. Goal or no goal, this finish is the best so far.

My best ever finish.

My best ever finish.

You cannot be that feeling. I may not have made my goal, I may not have PR’d, heck this was my slowest marathon (I ran 4:15), but at that moment it felt like my best. I totally got over any disappointment as this is a memory I will cherish. Having my boys run alongside me was absolutely awesome.

I made it through the finish line and got my medal and we headed over to grab the gear they had left when they joined me to run to the finish. I was beat. I think it shows.

I was cooked.

I was cooked. This is what a tough marathon feels like. Better to have experienced it and come out feeling positive.

So, I have two young boys who hadn’t seen me since the night before. I had no time to feel sorry for myself. They were all over me like a bee is to honey. They needed my attention more than I needed theirs so this was a very quick healing for any blues I may have been feeling at the time. No point in setting a bad example of being a misery in front of the kids. Get up, brush yourself down and know there are things more important than just PR’s. There will certainly be other races and many where my kids are not able to see me at the finish line. I aimed to savor my time with them. It really cheered me up. As you can see from the photo below I don’t look too disappointed. After all, I had still finished another marathon. That’s still something of an achievement.

Kids didn't even mind sweaty hugs. They were excited to see me after all.

Kids didn’t even mind sweaty hugs. They were excited to see me after all.

We headed over to the pavilion where there was food for the runners (and apparently for my offspring who again ate like they had run an ultra-marathon). The race director had catered well for runners both the night before and after the race today. In fact, I’ve never eaten French toast sticks as post race food before but they weren’t too bad. A little carbs with a little sugar. I was happy.

Post race food was provided. We ate well.

Post race food was provided. We ate well.

After a little food and some time to relax we started to head back to our cars so we could get home. After all it was still early enough in the day to have a full afternoon of activities with the family. By the time we headed out I had really forgotten how bad I had felt during the race and was pretty much over the fact that I had missed my goal. It was as simple as that. Over and done. Move on.

Happy to be with my family at the finish. The best cure for a bad race.

Happy to be with my family at the finish. The best cure for a bad race.

Still smiling. I still finished a marathon.

Still smiling. I still finished a marathon. not my best time.

Okay…so not my best time.

At the end of this all I can look back knowing that yes, this was a stretch goal, but I still finished another full marathon. I am not disappointed. In fact I may remember this as one of my favorites just because I got to share it with my family. I remember back in January when I finished the Dopey Challenge. As happy as I was to finish that event I remember feeling a little sad at the finish line area as I had no one to share it with at that very moment. The support makes all the difference between highs and lows.

Hard to be sad with support like this.

Hard to be sad with support like this.

I’m not sure I would rush back for this event again (unless I feel like redemption). This is not a negative on the race at all. I had a goal in mind and I didn’t meet it. I used this race for a specific purpose and as I train here a lot (for free) I’m not sure I would return unless I felt like it was the right opportunity. This race is designed as a BQ race specifically so it doesn’t have all the fancy bells and whistles of other big races. The race director did an outstanding job both days. I may return for the 15K next year as that will be fun to race.

The rest of the this year and into next I am running races with my wife. I’m not looking to PR in any of these but looking to have fun and enjoy the experiences together. I didn’t know what to say about my experience in this blog post (again, that is why it took me over a week), but now a week out from the race and reading what I have written above it really does have a silver lining. I may never catch that Unicorn but for me that is not the most important thing. I came late to running and every marathon finish line is a victory, fast or slow.

Thank you for reading.

Chasing the Unicorn…or at least trying


Coming off my recent PR earned (on the second attempt) at this year’s New Jersey Marathon I didn’t really have anything on my race schedule until the Baltimore Marathon in October and the Walt Disney World ‘Goofy Challenge’ next January. Both these races I will be running with my wife and so there are two goals: (1) In Baltimore it is to break 4:30 with Shari in her third marathon (we ran 4:45 together at the 2013 Philadelphia Marathon) and; (2) To successfully complete the Goofy Challenge still upright and smiling.

It was interesting for me that my reaction to achieving my PR at the New Jersey Marathon was a very brief high, but it soon faded. Why? I don’t know. I had prepared for this for over a year (longer if you count the training leading up to the 2013 Marathon). Personally I look back on the race and think I can do better. Yes, I did achieve my goal but it wasn’t pretty in the second half. I was nowhere near a negative split and I didn’t pace myself well in the second half. Am I being too hard on myself? Maybe, but perhaps it’s a reflection on my new focus and desire to do a bit better and achieve greater goals. This is what spurred me into registering for the ‘Chasing the Unicorn‘ Marathon taking place August 17 this year.

Why is it called ‘Chasing the Unicorn’? What is it all about? Why am I running it?

The logo of the Boston Marathon is the Unicorn. The primary objective of this particular race is for runners looking to earn a BQ (Boston qualifying standard) ahead of the registration deadline in September. In order to run the Boston Marathon, runners need to achieve a certain qualifying time goal in relation to their age group. For male runners in my age category (40-44) the qualifying standard is a marathon time of ‘3 hrs 15 min 00 sec’.

This race was first put on last year as a response to the increased demand to qualify for Boston in the wake of the 2013 bombings. Here is an article from Runner’s World Magazine that was published about the inaugural event in 2013.

As you may have read from my New Jersey race recap my marathon PR is 3 hrs 54 min 30 sec, not even close to the qualifying time unless I was in the 60-64 age category. So why is it that I have chosen to participate in this race and why was I allowed as I appear to be well outside the qualifying time?

I was already familiar with the ‘runBucks‘ series of races and the race director Pat McCloskey having participated in a few of his races in the past. My wife has won a couple of awards running in his events and is all too pleased to show me her awards (sore point in our household) 😉 I hadn’t considered running a race like this last year as I didn’t feel there was any way I would be reaching the BQ standards any time soon but two things made me reconsider. Firstly, I do some of my training runs on the canal and I have probably covered most if not all of this course during my long runs and secondly I think I can better my PR.

My wife with one of her awards (2nd place age group - Mother's Day 10K)

My wife with one of her awards (2nd place age group – Mother’s Day 10K)

I had struggled a little after the New Jersey Marathon back in 2013 and was a little demoralized having trained and not earned my PR but throughout the rest of 2013 I just set out to enjoy myself, run races with my wife and took my races with a relaxed attitude. I did attempt a PR in the Benjamin Franklin Bridge 10K which I did achieve but mostly it was about maintaining my fitness going into the inaugural Dopey Challenge back in January of this year. If you look at my recap of those four days down at Walt Disney World you will see how relaxed I was and how I found the marathon such an enjoyable experience (even after the previous three days of running) compared to my previous two years running that event.

I came back from Walt Disney World with a new confidence in my running and throughout all the training for New Jersey I felt comfortable and watched my speed become more consistent and a little quicker. In fact I ran three races in the four weeks leading up to the New Jersey Marathon at or close to my marathon goal pace. I felt confident going into the New Jersey Marathon and did in fact achieve my goal.

Okay, so not a BQ by any means but I do feel like I can do better. This prompted me to reach out to Pat directly and ask him if it was okay to register. I told him upfront that I wasn’t anywhere close to a BQ but I feel that this was the type of event that I could aim to improve my PR. It wasn’t going to be crowded (a very limited field) and I would be running solo so it seemed like a good opportunity to try. I also asked Pat if it was okay based upon the field size if it was okay to enter. I didn’t want to take away a BQ opportunity from a runner who was genuinely in a position to earn a qualifying time. Again, Pat reassured me that this would not be a problem just to keep my awareness up that I was going to be lapped…a lot (this is a double out and back loop of about 6.5 miles).

So here I am. Back at it in marathon training mode. In the past (marathons 2 through 8) I have used Hal Higdon’s Intermediate 1 training plan with Jeff Galloway’s run/walk method. This time I am ‘upping’ to Hal’s Intermediate 2 plan. It calls for a little increase in mileage (I get a third 20 mile training run) and with the summer here I can get up a little earlier and make time to do some speed workouts without fear of slipping on ice!! I know it will be warmer than I am used to training for a marathon but hopefully I will acclimatize enough over the summer to make this work. Here is my training plan for this event, the Baltimore Marathon and through the Goofy Challenge next January.

It’s going to be tough especially with the increased mileage but my goal is to be sub 3:50. Yup, I’ve put this down here in writing.

I’ll keep you posted 🙂


Family time and relaxation – Memorial Day 2013

Everyone has their own way of relaxing. Some people like to sleep in late, some like to sit by a pool or spend time at the beach. What do we do as a family? Well, we run 🙂

In addition to being Memorial Weekend and the official start of the summer season this weekend my Wife and I celebrated our 10th wedding anniversary. We kicked off our celebrations with a nice dinner at P.F. Chang’s which meant we had chalked up an extra couple of miles mid-week to save our calories for our anniversary dinner. Luckily for us that we did as we were given a free dessert by our waitress for our anniversary and just a few minutes later another free dessert. I like that place for some reason. I could taste the miles with every bite. Ha!

Celebrating at P.F. Chang's

Celebrating at P.F. Chang’s

With our kids staying overnight at my in-laws we started the weekend with a 10K run in Tyler State Park to celebrate our 10 years. The weather looked a bit iffy overnight but we lucked out and started running as the clouds cleared and got some magnificant sunshine. It was nice to run with Shari in the park as we both train there but we have never run together there as someone is always at home with the boys.

10K celebrating 10 years:

10th Anniversary 10K

10th Anniversary 10K

10K run - great start to our day

10K run – great start to our day

After the run we headed over to the Newtown Athletic Club where I had a massage booked (a birthday gift from Shari that I finally got around to using). When asked by the masseuse what type of treatment I wanted I told her that I was a marathon runner and she should use her judgement but I wanted to be able to run tomorrow. I think she went easy on me but it still hurt…but it was a good hurt I think. It was nice and relaxing and I felt refreshed once it was over.

After lunch together we picked up the boys and got together with some friends so all our kids could play together for the evening. While we were at our friends house my friend Mike suggested I look into reading the book ‘Advanced Marathoning‘ by Pete Pfitzinger if I wanted to look into increasing my speed which I had been discussing recently. I look to Mike for advice as he is a long time runner and still a great competitor and he is patient enough to listen to all my questions. We’ll see how this works out.

On Sunday we let the kids sleep in and took our time to get going. We headed to Yardley to run the Delaware Canal with the boys in the stroller for a family run.

Ready for a run

Ready for a run

We bought this stroller last year to take the boys out together with us when we run. It’s a great piece of equipment for us. My boys however are growing quick and are testing the weight limits of the stroller and pushing this gives me a pretty good workout (I can still feel my triceps two days later). Luckily the Delaware Canal Tow Path is nice and flat and we managed 8 miles together. The boys were awesome and Shari and I pointed out the wildlife as we ran. Funny thing happened within the first few minutes in that my GymBoss timer (I use for the Galloway method) flaked out on me. Rather than stop and fiddle around with everything on the run I just went with it and ran without my usual intervals. Did pretty well running the first couple of miles pushing over 100 pounds of boys without needing to stop. Something else to work on I guess as I take this time to work things out before the marathon training starts in July.

Family stroller run:

Family stroller run

Family stroller run

When we do the Canal run we park at Cramer’s Bakery in Yardley so we have a place to grab a cup of coffee when we finish. With the boys we promise them a treat from the bakery if they are good during the run. It’s amazing how good boys can be when you promise them a cupcake or a brownie. Anyway, we finish up the run and park the stroller at the bike rack next the bakery, choose our treats and sit outside the front of the store to eat and drink before heading home. As you can see by the photo below Asher must have worked hard during the run as in addition to his brownie he needed to take Shari’s bagel…he needed the carbs I guess?!?

Parked outside the bakery post run

Parked outside the bakery post run

Enjoying post run treats

Enjoying post run treats

So how far did you run kid?

So how far did you run kid?

So, how do you follow two days of family runs? You get up at the crack of dawn on a holiday and head out for a bike ride. I got up at 5am on Monday morning, hitched my bike to my car and headed out for my first outdoor ride of the season.

The bike rack is back on the car. It will be there for the summer now.

The bike rack is back on the car. It will be there for the summer now.

I headed out early to the canal path where we ran yesterday. It was a little cooler than I had planned but other than really cold fingers I was pretty much appropriately dressed. I wore my new Team Great Britain cycling jersey for this ride. The ride itself was fine. 20 miles from Yardley to New Hope and back. It felt good. I have a 25 mile ride in a few weeks on a very hilly course and while this was flat it was still a good test for going long. I’ll deal with the hills when I get there. Below is the ride summary.

Yardley to New Hope ride:

Ride route from Yardley to New Hope and back

Ride route from Yardley to New Hope and back

I finished my ride and got back home around 8.15am so Shari could go out for a run. The boys were still asleep when I got home so I had a nice cup of coffee and a bagel with peanut butter and honey. Now that was a treat.

Wearing my new Team GB jersey

Wearing my new Team GB jersey

Micah - who wore it best?

Micah – who wore it best?

Once Shari got back we got the kids, our picnic lunch and headed out to the Philadelphia Zoo for the afternoon before heading back for a family barbeque.

It seems like we did a lot with all this running and biking but to me it was a great relaxing weekend and I wouldn’t have it any other way. 🙂

Hope you all had a good holiday weekend too.

Also, as a quick reminder, now that Memorial Weekend is behind us here’s an activity for next weekend (and through July 31st). Great fun for a great cause with great prizes. Check out the great medal too. Everyone who enters receives this specially designed medal!

"Where's Dopey" Medal

“Where’s Dopey” Medal

As it is a virtual run you can run/walk this 5K anywhere in the world before July 31st.  You can head over here to sign up. Don’t forget to send your photographs in to be eligible for one of the prizes.