Rutgers UNITE Half Marathon – Race recap

Admittedly I am falling behind on updating my blog. With a few big events coming up in the next few weeks I have to catch up so expect a few back to back posts over the next few days.

Back in April I ran my third Rutgers UNITE Half Marathon. I have not run this race since 2016 and as the last time I ran this I earned my half marathon PR this is one of my favorites. I had a quick time in both 2015 and 2016. Admittedly I am nowhere near the shape I was in in 2016 (I’ve been a little out of sorts physically since my accident in the 2017 Rev3 Williamsburg Half Ironman…okay, I’ve added a few pounds) but I was looking to a fairly decent time considering the course.

This race is put on by CGI Racing which is one of my favorite race organizers. Responsible for ‘The LOVE Run‘ and the ‘New Jersey State Triathlon‘ which are always well organized. Unlike the last time I ran, they were not offering race day packet pickup which meant I had to do the trek up and back to New Brunswick twice that weekend. It’s about an hour each way from where I live so not the end of the world. At least this year it did not fall on an alumni weekend and I was able to get quickly in and out of the expo.

The Expo as usual was contained in the campus sports center and it was easy to navigate in and out. Packet pickup was fairly easy and as it was small I wasn’t there too long and was able to get back home reasonably quick.

The Expo was held on campus in the sports center

A small expo but not crowded

Packet pickup was easy and the volunteers were helpful and attentive

This photo shows nothing more than I really needed a haircut!!!

Yup…still need a haircut!

Early the next day I woke up and headed out in the dark for what would be an early start to the day. The race was due to start at 8am but unlike in the prior years where I parked at the starting area and had to get a shuttle bus back from the finish line, this year I decided to park at the finish and shuttle over to the start. Knowing from prior years that it was usually cool in the morning and could warm up later, I dressed to run warm but made sure I had a few layers on prior to the race start.

When I arrived at the finish line I was early enough to get a parking space really close to the finish area and waited until I saw some other runners up and around the area to follow. The race guide suggested you could walk to the starting area and I started to follow a few runners but I realized that I needed some personal time (i.e. a bathroom stop) so headed over the to the shuttle buses that would take us over to the starting area. Needless to say, I’m glad I didn’t walk as it was quite a ride over there. Of course we couldn’t take too many short cuts with the bus but it was still a good ride that I’m glad I was not on my feet for too long before the race.

Arrived early and got a good parking spot near the finish area

I decided to take the shuttle buses to the starting area

It was a very foggy morning and I new it would be a humid run. It wasn’t too cold at the start so I checked my bag early and just hung around waiting for the start. As you can see from the pictures below, the visibility wasn’t great…but I wasn’t going to be leading the race so as long as I could see the guy in front of me I was good. A few people liked my InknBurn shirt and joked that there was no way anyone could lose me in the fog.

Entering the starting area

The fog was quite dense in the area.

You are not going to lose me in this outfit

…not to mention my shortish shorts

Ready to get moving

As the National Anthem was playing I was already in the starting corral. Having run 1:51(wish) last time I was here and although I knew I was not in the best shape I still thought I could hang with the 1:45 guys and settled myself near the 1:45 pacers waiting for the word to go. With little delay we were off.

I did a fairly good job of hanging with the pace group over the first few miles running near their pace and staying within ear shot of the pace runners as they chatted amongst themselves. As we ran through the more modern side of the campus I heard them saying they were actually running ahead of pace…as confirmed by all of us struggling to keep up with them. It was around mile 6 or 7 that a few of us commented that it was getting warmer and we seemed to be lacking aid stations in this part of the course. Nevertheless I hung on the heels of the pacers until around mile 8 when, as I was beginning to heat up, I decided that it was better to enjoy the run than to fight to maintain the pace.

The humidity was already beginning to take it’s toll on me and my heart rate was elevated so I decided to slow down and let the pace group go ahead of me. My pace dropped from 8:45 pace per mile to around 9:30 as I tried (unsuccessfully) to lower my heart rate which was now pretty much stuck in zone 5. I dropped to a run/walk for the back side of the course from mile 8 to the finish line. It was the right decision for the day.

As we crossed over from bridge high above Route 18 a fellow runner recognized me as the ‘Philly2Goofy’ guy and this cheered me as we entered the park for the long out and back. Although we drop in elevation on this half of the course it generally feels like it’s uphill for the remainder of the run up until the crest of the hill leading to the finish line.

Was I glad to see that hill, knowing that in less than half a mile we would be at the finish line. I honestly struggled on the back half. I could not get my heart rate down. I put this down to the more than a few extra pounds I had gained since running the New York City Marathon in the previous fall. It hadn’t been my best winter for maintenance. I certainly saw the results of that today as I crossed the line in just over 2:05. This was 14 minutes slower than my 2016 race or over 1 minute per mile slower over the course. Wow.

However, a finish line is a finish line and it’s always a good thing to get over it standing upright. Not my best performance by any means but far from my worst. I still like this race and would recommend it to anyone looking for a nice spring half marathon. If the weather is good it can be a fast course. Still one of my favorites.

It’s always good to cross a finish line

My 3rd Rutgers UNITE Half Marathon in the books

Post race area for the athletes

Great organization as usual

A great tasting pretzel. Earned!!!

Short shorts but a good backdrop on the old side of the campus

The finish line area is great as you are on the main campus and so there is plenty of space to sit on the grass and catch ones breath. The post race area was, as usual well, set up by the volunteers and after a soft pretzel and a cold bottle of water it was back to the comfort of my car and the journey home. Another Rutgers half in the books.

 

2018 Rock ‘n’ Roll Half Marathon – race recap

I wasn’t going to do it. No sir, I wasn’t going to do it. I have run this event every year since 2011 and after running the same course (pretty much) each year I decided to sit this one out. I think I even registered for the 2017 race before I ran the 2016 event this was how predictable this race became for me. So my wife and I (who has run this with me since 2012) decided to skip this year. End of story.

…So why am I writing a race recap? Well, in preparation for the 2018 New York City Marathon I had chosen a new marathon training plan. For most of my marathons I have been using Hal Higdon marathon training programs but with my build up to New York I wanted to try something different. This time around I picked a Hansons Running marathon training plan. This was a new approach for me and I had been following the plan strictly (more or less). I had all my paces set and programmed into my Garmin and was sticking to plan. This race happened to coincide with a 12 mile run on the training plan. Additionally, my company wellness program was promoting a discount code for people who wanted to sign up for the race weekend. With permission from my wife (she decided not to join) I signed up just over a couple of weeks in advance of the race weekend. This would be a chance to put this training plan to the test.

Arriving late on a Friday evening and rushing into the expo

Obligatory race bib photo…with my hand written corral assignment

I headed to pick up my packet on the Friday evening after work. As usual, it took forever to get into the City on a Friday evening and I arrived with about 45 minutes left before the expo closed for the night. I picked up my race bib and as I had signed up so late I didn’t have my name printed on the bib or a specific corral assigned. I had to go over to get a corral assignment based upon my estimated finish time. Not a big issue but I’ve never signed up for a race this late. Interestingly, the expo was much smaller than it had been in previous years. There had been years when the expo was really big, now it just seemed a little light. Brooks was still the main apparel sponsor but there was nothing unique that jumped out at me. Not that I got much chance to see the expo. They started to switch off the lights around 15 minutes before the end of the expo hours and they announced that it was time to pack up (so to speak). The hint was taken and I headed home.

Expo was pretty empty

Heading in to see what was on show

The expo wasn’t as big as I had experienced before for a Rock ‘n’ Roll race

I was feeling confident going into the race weekend based upon my recent training and was hoping that my recent hard work was ready to pay off. I got my gear ready the night before and looked forward to what the day might bring. My half marathon PR of 1:51 was back in April 2016. I was hoping to get close the next morning.

Flat Ian, ready for some shenanigans…well, it’s me…let’s just hope for some nice safe fun 🙂

Race day arrived and I got to the starting area early. I bumped into a colleague as soon as I arrived at the staging area and we chatted for a while which helped relax the nerves. I got into my corral. The weather was overcast, warm and muggy, not ideal for a fast run but I still felt good and ready to go.

You can see how muggy it is at the beginning of the race

Our corral was called and it was time to put my recent training to the test. The first couple of miles went off well. I felt good. Something weird happened with my GPS running around the tall buildings so by mile 3 I had a zany 6:29 mile appear on my watch which threw me off a little. I had to start doing math every time I hit a mile marker going forward. You will see from my mile splits below that I tried to reset my laps by hitting all the buttons on my watch until I at least matched with a mile marker (for the split distance at least). The training seemed to have been working through the first few miles. I felt good and my pace was where I wanted it to be.

Around mile 7 the sun started to come through the clouds and it started to warm up, and with that, I started to slow down a little. As I headed up Kelly Drive the sun became stronger and my splits started to get slower. Miles 9 and 10 were almost 20 seconds slower and by the time I crossed over the Falls Bridge to Martin Luther King Boulevard I was fatigued and the next few miles were about a minute slower. Hmm…I may have pushed just a little too much at the start. Not sure it was the training or the heat. I managed to pick it up a bit in the last mile and made it to the finish line in a good compared to prior years but disappointing compared to plan time of 1:55. One of my better half marathons but about 5 minutes slower than plan. It was warm by the time I finished and as I was relieved to get a cold towel and some iced water. Oh, and some chocolate milk. Always a win!!!

My lap splits (with a little glitch for laps 3-5)

Based upon my splits I’m not sure if it was my training plan or the heat or a combination of both. I see that my last mile split was more on par with my earlier splits but still, a good takeaway knowing that I felt strong for the first half of the race. I still had 6 weeks to go until New York and time to complete the training and taper for my goal race.

A medal and some chocolate milk. A win.

So, I know that next year I will definitely not be running this race (I have signed up for the Atlantic City 70.3 triathlon) so my streak is broken. I’m okay skipping this one for a while. I’m sure I will be back again though but a break will do me good.

2017 Rock ‘n’ Roll Philadelphia Half Marathon – race recap

Back on September 17th, my wife and I ran this year’s Rock ‘n’ Roll Philadelphia Half Marathon. This was my 7th time and my wife’s 6th time running this event. We seem to be ‘repeat offenders’ when the email from R’n’R comes out the day before the race, offering discounted entry for the following year. (Spoiler alert…we passed on signing up for 2018 for now). This would be our second R’n’R run for 2017 after the D.C. Marathon back in March and therefore we were eligible for a bonus medal (the ‘Double Beat’).

The Double Beat medal

So going in, this race review will probably be similar to the ones posted about 2013 through 2016 (with the exception of the year the Pope caused the race to move to October 31st). Rather than comment about the course (which was the same as last year) I’ll highlight the key parts of the weekend and any changes from last year’s race.

Our last 6 finishes together

Since I started my new job back in January I am much closer to Philadelphia so I made a trip to the expo on Friday after work (saving us a trip to the expo on the weekend with both boys). Interestingly enough, the expo seems to be getting smaller each year which surprised me. This year it was held as per prior years at the Convention Center in Philadelphia. I arrived just after 6pm (the expo was until 7pm on the Friday evening) so I had just under an hour to get in, pick up bibs and shirts and explore the expo.

Packet pick up with pretty uneventful. Very quick and easy as was the shirt pick up. They had an area for shirt exchange where I could sample a different size (although I kept my original). From there I headed to the merchandise area (again sponsored by Brooks Running). Some cute stuff but nothing blew me away that I would need to buy this year so I avoided the (smallish) crowd and headed out into the expo hall.

Arriving at the expo

None of the weekends races had sold out

Upon entering, everything was clearly signed

Bib and t-shirt pickup was pain free

Merchandise was the typical Rock ‘n’ Roll fare. Nothing that screamed out to be purchased.

Then it was quickly through and off to the main expo

I was very surprised by how small it seemed compared to previous years. It didn’t seem that there were as many vendors as prior years and even some of the bigger vendors had smaller booths. Well, at least I got home earlier than planned.

It seemed a much smaller expo than previous years

It seemed a much smaller expo than previous years

It seemed a much smaller expo than previous years

It seemed a much smaller expo than previous years

The morning of the race we arrived really really early. For some reason we told the babysitter to be there by 5am…we arrived in Philly at 5.45am and we didn’t really need to be there until 6:30am. Oh well, at least my wife had a lovely extra few minutes sleep until it was time to go.

Not quite ready

As usual it was fairly straightforward to deal with bag check and the port-a-potties were plentiful…as were the lines waiting to get in them. We arrived in fairly good time. I did get a chance to say hello to some fellow Team Shenanigans members before heading towards the corrals.

Ready for a nice run around Philadephia

Despite being early we are still smiling

Obligatory wife jump shot

We had a full agenda ahead of us after the race. We figured that we would be able to be done early as we were in corral 7. When we were in the corral people were moving up so we did too. No one was policing the corrals so we actually started up near corral 5 (that saved us all of 4 minutes).

In the starting corral

Okay, now we’re ready

It was a warm morning and once off and running we quickly heated up. What was noticeable was a lack of water early in the course. I know that this is a big race and they probably need to spread things out once the corrals are released but this was a warm and humid day (high 60s to low 70s) but the first water stop wasn’t until nearly mile 2.

Photo op on the course

The course was the same as last year (as mentioned above) so there were no real surprises for us this time around. We settled into our pace and were doing reasonable splits for the first 7 miles. We may have gone out a little too fast in the early miles and this caught up to us as the heat and humidity started getting higher around mile 9. It was a bit of a slog going into the last few miles but we persevered through to the finish in a time of 2:05.

Another finish line

At the finish line, in addition to the cool Benjamin Franklin medals, they provided us with towels dunked into ice water. That was a great relief, as was the chocolate milk that this race always provides. 🙂

Post race goodies to refuel

Our 2017 medal

As we were in a rush to be back home for the boys we just grabbed our stuff and headed back to the car. It seems strange that we treat this as a normal run these days and can pretty much predict our finish times so we can plan our day accordingly. Checking back on our previous years running this race we have run times consistently around 2:05 with our best being 2:00 and our worst being 2:07 (which was a much warmer and humid year).

I guess it is because we have done this race so many times now this seems not to be such a huge race for us as it used to be. Drop in…run…leave. Oh well, we might have to sit out a year or two on this one. We didn’t rush to re-sign up for 2018 as we usually would for that reason. Still it was another fun day and always a treat to be able to run with my wife.

Thank you for reading.

Rev3 Williamsburg Triathlon Weekend – ‘The Revolution’ – Race recap

It’s just like falling off a bike…

It took a while to sit down and write this review, after all this race weekend was at the beginning of July and I am writing this in early September. There’s quite a lot to tell about this event both good and bad and I’ve tried a few times to sit down to recap this all. Here goes.

I completed my first half iron distance triathlon (70.3) back in July 2016 and when I was looking to do a second I took a long look around at the options, from price and timing as well as location. The factors that made me choose Williamsburg was that it was drivable, the timing meant that I could bring my family along and also that this was priced very reasonably (vs some of the ‘branded’ events). So Rev3 Williamsburg was chosen and I registered for my second half iron distance event in early September 2016.

So, you know how I like challenges which involve back to back and multiple races in the same weekend,  (think Goofy Challenge, Dopey Challenge, Rocky Challenge), back in December Rev3 announced that this weekend would offer two challenge races, the first was ‘The Double’ (Sprint Tri on Saturday and Olympic Tri on Sunday) and ‘The Revolution’ (Sprint Tri on Saturday and Half Iron distance on Sunday). I’m not one to miss a challenge opportunity for a bonus medal and so I spoke with the race team and registered for ‘The Revolution’. Got that? A sprint triathlon as a warm up to a Half Iron distance. It should be a busy weekend.

I chose the same training plan for the Half Iron race that I chose for my first 70.3 last year (10 week novice plan from Endurance Works). This meant that my training plan started on May 1st which gave me a few weeks of recovery from the Rock ‘n’ Roll DC Marathon back in mid-March. This worked well in the past and all I was looking to do was to finish both races not necessarily in podium position 😉

As this was going to be a family trip (we would be away Friday through Monday) I splurged a little and booked the family into Great Wolf Lodge in Williamsburg. It was about 20 minutes from the race site at the Chickahominy Riverfront Park. My family would be at the park for the Sunday race (families were encouraged to run the finish line with their athlete) so the kids would be busy and entertained on Saturday, Sunday morning and however long we would stay on the Monday before heading home.

As my boys were going to join me in the race I purchased these shirts online so they would look the part on race day 🙂

As I was getting all my gear ready for race day I was paying close attention to the weather forecast and also the river conditions. The Rev3 Williamsburg Facebook group was especially helpful in this. Based upon the feedback of the people in the group it was not worth packing a wetsuit as it was not going to be a wetsuit legal race. I had been experimenting with talking salt tabs due to the heat and I had picked up a new running handheld bottle for the run portion of the race that I planned to use to hold the salt tabs and also to refill at the aid stations as needed.

Saturday’s forecast

Sunday’s forecast

In some of my other races I had taken along a bucket to both store my equipment and also to use as a seat during transition. I hadn’t needed one for the half iron last year as there were stools provided to the athletes. I made what can only be described as an innocent mistake by asking the group if stools were provided or whether there was space for buckets and boy oh boy did that raise up a Facebook storm!!!!

Race weekend finally arrived; we picked our boys up from their day camp and headed down to Virginia. We arrived at 9pm that evening just in time for the late night kids activities at Great Wolf Lodge. This gave me plenty of time to check in and bring all my gear up to the room to prep for the Sprint tri on Saturday morning. As race packet pickup was on race day we didn’t need to arrive any earlier. With everyone settled into the room and my bags packed for the next day we called it a night and I tried somehow to get enough sleep before my first race.

IMG_2847

It took a while but we made it safely

Made it to the Lodge

Saturday July 8th – Sprint Triathlon

Saturday morning came early and I tried to very carefully get up without waking anyone else in the room. I did my best but my wife said she heard me. Luckily the boys didn’t. Although my gear was ready to go, I still had to take my water bottles out of the refrigerator and move my bicycle out of the room like a ninja in order not to make any further disturbance. I still have no idea how I managed that.

It was still dark outside when I left the hotel, packed up my car and racked my bike. The drive to the park was down a long unlit stretch of highway. I had been followed out of the hotel parking lot by a couple of cars that also seemed to be heading to the race. I was up in the front so they were relying on me to lead the way…uh oh. On the side of the road there were plenty of deer and other wildlife. I was very much on alert not to 1) get lost with everyone seemingly following me and 2) not get hit or hit a deer running across the road. Not the most calming of drives. Finally I (we) made it to the entrance to the park and we were directed by the race staff where to park.

It was still dark when we arrived and I was very grateful that I had packed my running headlamp in my transition bag so I could see what I was doing in the unlit field. Race packet pickup and gear pickup was very simple. They had a board listing all the athletes so they could look up their race numbers if needed. I grabbed my race packet and went over to pick up my special ‘Revolution’ gear and was able to head back to the car to grab my race bag and bike. They also gave me this awesome note in my race packet 🙂

IMG_2848

Cookies? It’s like they really knew me.

The sun was starting to rise at this time so I was able to put my headlamp away, change out of my outer clothes (my tri-suit was underneath) and head over to the transition area. All were very clearly marked out and there were plenty of volunteers available to help out.

I found my spot to keep my bike. I was at the front with all the other ‘Revolution’ entrants. There were about 20 or so people doing the Sprint/Half Iron combination and we would have the same number both days. As we were at the front of the transition area, once I had set out my gear for the day, I was able to move my transition bag to the side to save some space. By the way…I saw people with buckets!!!! One bucket was even decorated with tinsel for the event 😉

All set for the Sprint tri (no bucket)

Ready to go

A nice clear morning

The race was due to start at 6:30. I was in the second wave so we were called out of the transition area just after 6:00am. It was a long walk to the boat ramp where the swim would start and I hadn’t thought to bring any throwaway sandals. I knew that this was going to be an issue for me and I would need extra time to get down to the water. I was fine walking along the grass but ultimately I had to traverse a gravel path bare foot….I’m a delicate soul and all of a sudden I was moving as if walking on egg shells. Not fast and not glamorous. I was walking so slowly I was blocking traffic when a minivan pulled up beside me and told me to hop in so they could drive me the last couple of hundred yards to the start line. They people who ‘adopted’ me in the minivan were camped by the edge of the river and this was a nice thing they did for me.

It was an in water start so although people were able to do a practice swim (I didn’t) you had to get out of the water to cross over the starting mat to get back into the water. After the National Anthem they started letting the waves of athletes out. I had two caps in my race packet, one for today and one for tomorrow. I was nervously checking everyone around me to make sure I had on the right one for the day.

They announced that the water temperature on the day was 83 degrees (definitely not wet suit safe for the swim). Each wave was called and they had a couple of minutes to enter the water via the ramp and then tread water until it was time to go. Once it was my turn I made my way in (towards the back of the pack) and waited for the announcement to go. Then we were off.

The swim was an out and back around the buoys in a sort of triangle shape. Some part was into the morning sunshine and you could feel the heat, some was in the shade and you could feel it cooler. The river itself had shallow pockets of river mud. In fact on the way out if you were to swim too far the right of the course you would swim through shallow grass. Indeed there seemed to be some sort of rise in the lake bed and a couple of people actually stood up around me in the early stages of the swim right in the middle of the lake. It was weird to say the least.

Once around the turn it was slightly with current and I made my way along towards the bridge in the distance. As we approached the bridge and moved towards the shore I could feel my hands brushing the bottom of the river. The next thing I know I’m practically crawling along the bottom. I looked up to see that everyone was slowly walking into the shore through the deep, sloppy mud. I stood up and joined in. The river bed was soft mud so as you took each step you sank down. This made it a little difficult and made for slow egress out of the water. It also takes a bit of extra effort at the end of the swim. Finally I made it to shore and made my way into transition. Total time for the swim 28:34 minutes.

Sprint Tri swim

With no bucket on which to sit(!) I was able to dry myself and as always struggle to get my Injinji toe socks onto my damp feet. Not my fastest transition (6:06 minutes). As I was close to the front I grabbed my bike and headed to the exit in front of me only to find out that it was the run exit not the bike exit so I quickly turned around and made a beeline for the correct exit.

The bike course was a simple out and back. There was a bridge that we had to climb immediately on leaving the park but this wasn’t too cumbersome. As the course was fairly flat I was able to get into aero position relatively quickly and powered my way down to the turnaround (by powered I mean my speed…not too fast). The ride was nice and cool as it was mostly in the shade. The road was open to traffic and so there were a few cars to contend with but not too many and never crowded. The turnaround took us off the road and onto the riding/running trail that was all paved so it was pretty smooth coming back.

We had been warned to slow down going back across the bridge as there was a 90 degree left turn back into the park at the base of the bridge and we risked overshooting it and riding into the 5K course if we went too fast. It was a nice ride on the day and I was happy to return into transition and quickly change into my running gear. My ride was 54:34 minutes at an average speed of 16.82mph. I grabbed a salt tab and my water bottle only as I didn’t think I needed a gel or anything to boost my energy levels.

Sprint Tri ride

The run was also fairly flat and out and back. We had to cross one road and there were police controlling traffic. It had started to become much warmer by this time and it was still before 9am. I held a pretty decent pace coming off the bike and my legs felt fresh. I ran the 5K in 27:55 minutes at a 9:01min/mile pace.

Sprint Tri run

The finishing chute had us run off the paved road and along the grass. This felt good underfoot and the crowds were really great. My total time was 1:59:30 for the sprint.

The race provided free finisher photos which was really nice of them.

Post-race we were awarded a medal and a bottle of water and Gatorade and I headed over to the post-race refreshment tent. This was great. They had pretzels, animal crackers, Goldfish crackers and I grabbed a back of Famous Amos cookies and chilled out for a couple of minutes before heading back to the transition area to pack up.

As I was racing the next day I didn’t need to return my timing chip. I would need to come back later in the day for the mandatory athlete meeting and to pick up the Quarq Qollector GPS tracker that I had I had rented for the next day so my family could track my position via an app on the phone. Also as I had the same race number for both races I was able to leave my bike in transition for the next day so I was able to travel back to the hotel with less logistics to work out.

I headed back to the hotel (with a short stop at Walmart to pick up a cheap pair of flip flops for the walk to the boat dock on Sunday) where I arrived just as my family had come down for the day. The boys were getting face paint in the lobby and my wife had just grabbed breakfast for everyone. I timed it well. Fresh coffee and a bagel were waiting for me as I sat down with them. They went off to the water park and I got showered and dressed ready to head back for the 1pm meeting.

I Tri on Dunkin’

All cleaned up and ready to head back to the expo/race site

Feeling refreshed I headed back to the park and took my time to take some pictures of the venue, walk through the expo tent, look at the vendors and then grab my GPS tracker for Sunday. The race meeting was held on the stage and I was early enough to grab a seat under one of the tents out of the sun that had been set up. It was really hot by this time and shade was very welcome.

Entrance to the expo

Packet pickup

Information center manned through the whole weekend

Really straightforward. Even I could figured this out.

Easier to find your number in the daytime than early before dawn. Make sure you come prepared.

Race packet pickup was very smooth

The Quarq Qollector I rented for the half. It was a bit bigger than I had anticipated and they had run out of the race belts. Fortunately it was small enough to tuck into my tri suit pocket and didn’t interfere with the bike or run.

They had lots of merchandise available

I came early enough to grab a seat under the tent for the race meeting. It was very hot out in the sun.

The race team did a great job of keeping everyone entertained. The race announcer was awesome and very funny. The race director and the USAT professional gave their brief course description, reminder of the rules and other comments before opening up for questions. It was all well run.

Pre race meeting was very informative and we were entertained while we waited

After that I headed back to the hotel to join my family and hope to grab a nice dinner and an early night. My boys were having too much fun though so I had to join in as they started their ‘MagiQuest’ throughout the hotel. They were having an awesome time but eventually (I think around 10pm) everyone was back in the room and ready for a good night’s sleep.

Sunday  July 9th – Half Triathlon – 70.3

Sunday morning started early. I’m not sure how well I slept but by this stage I was both excited and nervous to get through the day. Having learned my lessons from yesterday and not having to remove my bicycle from a room of sleeping people I was able to get out and on the road without too much disturbance. I had my goal in mind as I prepared. Beat last year’s time!!!!

The drive in was easier today having already made the journey twice the day before. When I arrived I saw that it was much more crowded than the day before.

Ready for day 2 of ‘The Revolution’

Much more crowded for the second day

All set. Ready for my second 70.3

The race director had advised that bike pumps would be available within the transition area provided by the race mechanics (Gonzo Gears) so I didn’t have to bring mine from the car. I took my bike to them, they asked what PSI I wanted and that was that. A few nervous trips to the bathrooms and it was soon time to head to the water again for the swim. This time I was prepared with my $5 flip flops from Walmart. As I arrived to the water’s edge the lady who had driven my in the minivan yesterday recognized me as she was spectating today and wished me luck. I also ran into Meghan from Team Shenanigans who was there to cheer on her husband who was also doing the half. We chatted for a while and that helped calm me down before it was time for my wave to be called.

My wave was called and I moved up a little from yesterday to make sure I wasn’t too far back when it was time to go. The swim today was a similar course (out and back in a triangle pattern) just further with a few extra buoys to swim around to reach the 1.2 mile distance. The temperature of the water today was one degree warmer at 84 degrees.

I swam steady and kept a fairly straight line. My sighting is not usually my strongest part of the open water swim. As we rounded the furthest buoy and turned for home we definitely had a slight current as I had started to drift a little. Similar to yesterday, as we approached the shore line the river got shallower and we were back in the mud. At least today I was able to anticipate this a bit more. Overall, I was very happy with my time of 41:49 minutes for the swim. I knew I had beaten my swim time from my first half last year by a good margin (54:32).

Half Iron swim

Out of the water and heading to transition

I made my way through transition and today I struggled with my Injinji compression socks. They were long…and tight. That probably wasted a little extra time than I should have needed. Maybe next year I just go with the short socks and my regular Zensah compression sleeves. My transition time was 8:28 minutes!!! Seriously??? At least I knew which way to go out of transition today so that probably saved a few minutes 🙂

The bike course started out the same as yesterday. However, this time we went past the Sprint turnaround point and continued on for what would be our 56 mile ride. Again, this was fairly flat and I was making good time and keeping my average speed/pace up high like the day before. I was touching between 16.5 to 17.0 miles per hour which is pretty solid for me and was going well and on pace to beat my time from last year (although that was much more hilly up in the Catskill Mountains).

Looking very focused on the bike

All seemed to be going well and I was in aero position for most of the straights and then…

At mile 24 I was down in aero position tucked in to the right hand side of the road (as was the rule for the race). The road was slightly cambered and I was pretty close to the edge. Too close apparently as I drifted slightly to my right and dropped off the road a couple of inches into the dirt at the side of the road. Instinct made me try to steer left back up onto the road but my wheel was too low below the black top to reach the flat paved road. With my wheel locked against the road and the speed I was going I was thrown over the top of the bike landing hard on my right shoulder.

I landed ahead of my bike and I looked back to see my bike and gear strewn all over the road. I knew instantly as I couldn’t correct that I was going to fall. It happened really quickly and I literally went down, rolled and pretty much saw stars for a few seconds. I tried to get up and out of the road but felt a searing pain on my right. I was able to pull my bike off the road and move my gear but I was clearly quite stunned at this time. Thankfully I hadn’t hit my head on the road as I came down really hard.

A couple of riders called out to me as they passed to see if I was okay…which I said “Yes” to without thinking. I could see that my chain had come of the bike and tried to get it back on the cogs. What was I going to do out here at mile 24?

Luckily, very luckily, within a couple of minutes after the fall two trucks pulled up behind me. One was being driven by EMS and the other by the bike crew and a member of the race team. The EMS asked if I was okay, I told him I fell on my shoulder and slowly lifted my arms in a rotating movement. It hurt like heck but I said I could move it. I asked him if there were any bones that looked out of place or anything poking out where it shouldn’t and he told me no and said if I felt okay he’d like to move onto another part of the course where he was needed.

The bike crew behind me meanwhile had fixed my bike and cycled through all the gears. The bike wasn’t damaged (a bit banged up on the right hood and aero bars) and was rideable. The race team member asked if I was okay and if I wanted to continue and whether I needed anything. I was still shaking at this point but I gave her my name, asked if she had any water or Gatorade (they did) and said I’d try and continue at least until the next aid station. One thing I remember from all this was that a member of the bike crew was called Micah like my eldest son. I don’t remember much else though 😦

I got back on my bike and tried to move on. I didn’t notice until after the race that the force of me coming off the bike had ripped of my bike cleats in half. Based upon my Garmin data I was off the bike for about 5 minutes. I still had another 32 miles to go on the bike. The first few meters were really painful as I had to use both my arms to steady myself on the bike. I realized that as long as I didn’t move my arm too much I could manage the pain. I knew immediately that going aero was no longer an option. I just couldn’t move my arm that way and although I could move onto the handlebar drops it was very painful. My legs worked and other than a slight graze to my knee (luckily I couldn’t see how much my shoulder was bleeding) I was able to pedal forward albeit at a much more careful and slower pace.

I made it to the next rest stop and struggled to slow down and dismount. I knew I couldn’t ride through as I would have needed both hands/arms to ride and grab refreshment and that wasn’t about to happen. I kept telling myself that my legs worked and I could make it in. The pain was bad and I was thinking of worst case scenarios about what I may have done to my shoulder but at least that was making the time go by (although not the most positive way of thinking).

At one point as we went past another plantation (this one owned by former President John Tyler) I almost went off the road again. My heart was racing. This was tougher than I had planned. It was a flat course and should have been really fast. I was really on course for a fast time before the accident. Plan B was just to finish the bike and see how I felt.

I was really grateful when I made the turn left back onto the home stretch. I knew that I was slow and probably near the back of the pack at this point. I could see the runners on the trail running the out and back. Many of them were close to finishing or were done with the first out and back. I felt having made it this far I had to continue. Again, my legs still worked and I’d figure out a way to make it.

As I come over the bridge and rounded into the park I made my way off the bike (awkwardly) and back into transition. My bike time ended up being 3:44:10 at an average pace of 14.88mph.

Half Iron ride

I had probably lost 30-40 minutes as a result of the accident. Back in the transition is when I felt bad pain. I had to lift my bike to rack it and then I had to reach down to put on my shoes. It was hot at this point. My transition time was 3:39 minutes. I picked up my water bottle and grabbed a couple of salt tablets as it was now really warm and headed out of transition. I couldn’t swing my right arm and in the absence of a sling to hold my arm I immobilized it by grabbing hard onto my shirt with my right hand to keep it from moving about too much.

As I headed out on the run I saw Meghan who was waiting at the turnaround point (the 13.1 was a double out and back…over the bridge twice!!). She asked how I was doing and honestly said I wasn’t doing great. I told her I fell but I was determined to finish, and with that I set off to run the half marathon distance.

The heat was a factor at this point and I was feeling pretty fatigued. It may have been a combination of the injury and trying very hard to focus but I was clearly off pace and struggling. All I could do was keep moving forward slowly. I was well off my regular pace (I can run a 1:50 half marathon) and although I anticipated running slower during a half iron distance I was much slower than usual. Last year I ran the half marathon during my 70.3 in 2:18 and I knew I could do better. This time however my run time was not going to be relevant. My goal was just to finish.

As I passed through the aid stations everyone was cheering and very supportive. A couple of people asked if I needed anything for my arm (remember I couldn’t see it) but I said I was fine and used the aid stations to refill my bottle with water and ice so I could carry on.

Weirdly I’m smiling…probably because I saw the photographer. I certainly didn’t feel like smiling.

The out and back is along the paved trail. It was somewhat sheltered by the trees but there were some exposed areas that you could really feel the heat coming down. I have to ask why are all my tri-suits black? I have to do something about that!!! One of the great things about a triathlon is that all the competitors seem to be very supportive of each other and people were really gracious in encouraging me along. As the USAT rules do not allow headphones to be worn, runners are not tuned out of what is around them and so it made for great camaraderie during the out and back portions.

Not smiling so much now. As you can see I was gripping my tri-suit to keep my arm immobilized as much as possible.

I finally made it to the first turnaround (it seemed to go on forever) and headed back to the second turnaround over the bridge. I was still struggling. I made it up and over the bridge and I saw my wife and the boys waiting at the turnaround for me (actually I heard them before I saw them). They were cheering loudly and all I could focus on was them. I didn’t actually see that Meghan was still there and that two other friends from Team Shenanigans were also there supporting me. Brittany and Kendrick had driven up to cheer me on. I didn’t actually realize that until a couple of days later. I told my wife I was hurt and she suggested I see a medic to which I replied I would when I was done. What more could I do? The injury had already happened but I was still running and so I just needed to keep going to finish and so up and over the bridge I went out into the distance. If they can adjust the course for 2018 to make the turnaround on the other side of the bridge that would be great.

On my way back from the first turnaround

I didn’t see this picture until a few days after the race had finished. Here I am coming to the half turnaround. My friends said that this was the first time in a race they have never seen me smiling. I was really struggling and knew I had to go back out again.

The second half was a struggle. It was very hot, it was early afternoon and I’d been out on the course for almost 6 hours at this stage. My arm still ached and I was run/walking (more walking) by now. Once I hit the final turnaround I knew I had only 3 or so to go. I started to be more optimistic. I’d made it this far when it would have been very easy (and excusable) to drop out. If anything this was going to make for a good story and perhaps my kids would remember this. As this weekend had been all about family and I had promised the boys we could cross the finish line together all I knew was that I couldn’t quit. The thought of disappointing them was too much for me and forced me to keep moving forward.

As I approached the mile 12 aid station I saw Meghan, Brittany and Kendrick waiting for me. I was so surprised. I had been in a bit of a fog for the last hour and it was great to see them. They told me they saw me struggling (again, I hadn’t noticed them at the turnaround) and they wanted to make sure I finished. They ran with me up and over the bridge. They all wore flip flops and kept up with me which pretty much shows you how slow I was at this point. As we approached the base of the bridge they let me continue on my own as they and my wife and the boys headed towards the finish line. I still had to go around the transition area first as part of the course.

It was so great to have friends supporting me as I made my way back in. Very special.

As we rounded the transition area I threw my bottle towards my gear bag (FYI, I made it) and made the final turn into the finish chute where I was joined by both the boys and my wife following behind. This is why I didn’t quit. This was what made the weekend for me.

With my family approaching the finish line

My reward for this weekend. Made everything worth it.

Crossing the finish line together – as promised. This was my motivation to get through the run.

Finally I crossed the finish line. I received my medal and an ice cold towel (how awesome was that?) and even my boys received their race medallions for crossing the finish line. I was handed a bottle of water and asked immediately for medical attention and was taken straight to the medical tent. I finished with a time of 7:26:37 with a half marathon time of 2:48:32. About 10 minutes slower than my 70.3 last year and I was much slower on both the bike and the run as a result of my fall. At this point it didn’t matter about my time, the win was that I actually picked myself up and finished.

Half Iron run – not what I had planned for sure

My family followed me into the tent and I was soon followed by Brittany, Kendrick and Meghan who had gone to grab me a cold Yuengling from the cooler. So I was able to enjoy a refreshingly cold beer as I was being attended to by the medical team. The prognosis was that I may have separated my AC joint judging by where the doctor was prodding my shoulder and how high I jumped when he touched a certain part of the shoulder. He advised I get a precautionary x-ray just to confirm there were no fractures. They washed out my wounds and patched me up while I chatted with everyone. I was pretty much on a high now that I had finished. Once I was in a sling they allowed me to leave the medical tent.

Receiving medical attention and some cold refreshment.

All of us proudly displaying our medals.

Temporarily patched up. I’m still smiling though which is a good thing.

I headed to get some food with the boys. There was a good amount of food and I opted for some vegetarian lasagna and some oatmeal raisin cookies. The boys had a lot of fun waiting around the vendor booths earlier in the day and so were really happy that I was back, (maybe so they could go back to Great Wolf Lodge for the rest of the day). We sat down to eat and to literally catch my breath. I couldn’t believe I had finished but I’m glad I really toughed it out.

The boys were great. As we were sitting they were announcing and awarding the prizes. They boys asked me if I needed to be over there to get my award. I love them 🙂

We decided that as we were staying over for the night and the boys would be entertained back at the hotel that it might be best while I had the time to head over to get that x-ray today as we were not too far from the hospital. We had planned to join Brittany and Kendrick for some post-race refreshments but I hoped they understood that I needed to get checked out. I owe them a beer or two for coming to support me. Kendrick helped me pack up my gear and also helped me put the bike back onto the car for the journey home. I definitely could not have done any of that without him. I guess that’s an extra couple of beers I owe him. It’ll be my pleasure to provide them.

We left the race site and my wife took me to the local hospital (incidentally it was where the medical team for the race were from). My wife dropped me at the ER and I said I’d let her know any updates but that I’d be fine taking an Uber back to the hotel. At least there was something for everyone to do there and it would be better than having to wait around for me. Luckily the ER wasn’t busy and I was soon taken in to the treatment rooms to be checked up. Once I was into the treatment area they announced that I was the first triathlete they had seen today. At least I came first in something!!!!

Made it to the ER

Luckily there wasn’t a long wait for treatment

The medical team (once they heard my story) were impressed that I’d got back on my bike and finished. I spent my time waiting before and after being taken for x-rays catching up and explaining to my friends and family what had actually happened. Thank you Facebook!

When the news came back that I had indeed separated the AC joint and thankfully not broken or fractured anything I was put into a sling that immobilized my arm (it wrapped around my shoulder and around my waist) and was told to follow up with my local doctor when I got home. The nurse practitioner who set me up in the sling told me that it would take time to heal and that a fracture would probably have healed quicker. Gee, thanks…

A fancy new sling. Nothing fractured thankfully.

Once all my paper work was in order (yes, the bills came soon after 😦 ) I called for an Uber and made my way back to the hotel. Luckily everyone was having fun and hadn’t really missed me, although my wife did show some concern. The boys were disappointed that I couldn’t do the water slides with them but they were happy I was okay.

I went back to my room to shower and rest. Do you know how painful and difficult it is to get out of a tri-suit with a separated AC joint, not to mention the lack of skin on my elbow and shoulder? Yes, not the most pleasant experience showering. Getting my t-shirt on and off took a few deep breaths. Finally I was all clean and took some time to rest before dinner.

Post shower. Ouch. Took a couple of days before I was brave enough to attempt to scrub the tattoo off.

A unique weekend. 3 medals and 5 x-rays.

Sprint Tri medal

Half medal (the ribbon for the Sprint and the Half was different

‘The Revolution’ – I conquered The Revolution (although it almost conquered me).

We headed over to a nearby restaurant for dinner as I had plenty of calories burned and there was no way I was going to use them all, although I did try. They boys were happy that we were able to spend the evening at the hotel to continue their MagiQuest.

I was able to get a reasonable night’s sleep that night and realized how truly lucky I was that all I had was an injured shoulder that would in time heal. There were no other riders involved, there were no other vehicles involved and I hadn’t fallen on my head. I was very lucky and relieved.

On Monday morning we let the boys finish up their MagiQuest. I accompanied them up and down through the hotel as they completed the scavenger hunt until it was done and their names were listed as having completed the quest. They were extremely happy. It was a great weekend and we definitely have lots of memories to take away from here.

We all had some good but different memories from this weekend

I was very fortunate that I hadn’t travelled alone to this race. I am not sure how I would have managed to get back from the race, go to the hospital or even drive home. My wife took the driving role as we left Williamsburg and even though we took an unexpected tour through Washington DC(?) we made it home in good time. I’d like to thank her for her infinite patience in putting up with all my training and putting up with what happened over this weekend.

In summary, accident notwithstanding, the whole race weekend was really great. I have nothing but good things to say about the Rev3 team. They put on a well-organized and well supported race and made it fun. They made it all about the athletes and their families. I would recommend that you give them a look and if you are considering a triathlon to check them out. I plan to be back in 2018 to do this properly and see what I could really do (when I’m fully upright). The race director even followed up with me by email after I got home once he had heard all about the accident. I hope to sign up again soon although my wife will not allow me to even discuss signing up for anything until I’m fully healed. I have time.

It’s like falling off a bike. Just make sure to get back on.

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

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

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

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

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

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

 

Eek!!!

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

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

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

We’ve arrived

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

Bib pickup was quick and easy

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

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

The infamous jacket

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

Your typical Rock ‘n’ Roll Brooks set up

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

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

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

Obligatory race bib photo

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

We bought the Abe in the sweatband t-shirt

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Flat Ian – a little warmer than usual.

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

We look silly but warm

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

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

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

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

Ready to get moving

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

Here is the full marathon course map:

Full Marathon Course Map

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

A couple of hills during our run.

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

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

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

Made it. Another marathon down.

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

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

Feels amazing to be warm(ish) again.

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

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

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

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

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

Best UBER driver ever!!!

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

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

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

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

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

Walking around to keep ourselves moving.

Marathon legs? What marathon legs?

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

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

At the Lincoln Memorial

At the Lincoln Memorial

At the Lincoln Memorial

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

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

 

October 2016 – Month in review

October was a fun but busy month. It involved a number of days of business travel for both my wife and myself but also a marathon and continued training.

October 2016 - Nike+ Summary

October 2016 – Nike+ Summary

My total mileage for the month was 132 miles. All running, as you can also see from the Garmin summary below, there was no swimming or biking this month. There were a number of rest days this month as I tapered towards and rested after the Mohawk Hudson River Marathon that I ran in the early part of the month.

October 2016 - Garmin Connect Summary

October 2016 – Garmin Connect Summary

After the marathon I was into my back to back plan. There are six weeks between running the Mohawk Hudson race and the running the Rocky Challenge at this years Philadelphia Marathon weekend. The challenge is to run the half marathon on the Saturday and the full marathon on the Sunday. Although I have done this three times already at Disney (Goofy Challenge 2013, Dopey Challenge 2014 and Goofy Challenge 2015) this still takes a lot of effort and is not to be taken lightly.

I am using Hal Higdon’s multiple marathon plan which I have used successfully in the past. It is a 6 week program divided into 2 weeks of recovery, 2 weeks of training and 2 weeks of taper. I have been making sure that the days before the long run are at least half the miles I will be running for my long run in order to simulate race weekend fatigue on my body.

With all that mileage I am lucky that I have something to absorb the calories from another Halloween. I enjoy this holiday as I get to dress up with my kids and go trick or treating. I never had this growing up in the UK so I really go all in here in the US, decorating the house and for the last few years coordinating costumes with the boys. This year however, my eldest decided he wanted a scary costume and I was not allowed to coordinate with him. I was free to choose what I wanted.

I chose to be Captain Kirk as it was just after the 50th anniversary of Star Trek. I revealed my costume the week before Halloween to my kids, only for my wife to tell my youngest that Daddy was a ‘Wiggle’! What???? Thanks Honey 😦

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Ready to Boldly Go

This was not the look I was going for

This was not the look I was going for

Either way, I had the last laugh when it came to Halloween. I dressed up and went out with the boys. I wasn’t collecting candy (although I did hold the bag for my youngest…and saw to it that he wasn’t overstocked with Kit Kat’s) but I reached house who insisted I look at their license plate on their car and then gave me my own candy. Score!!!

Ready to beam up

Ready to beam up

Appropriately, I got candy from this house

Appropriately, I got candy from this house

I hope you had a good October. It was fun for me. I’m looking forward to November and returning to my local race, the Philadelphia Marathon and to cheering on my wife in the 2016 TCS New York City Marathon at the beginning of the month.

Thank you for reading.

 

2016 Philadelphia Rock ‘n’ Roll Half Marathon – Race recap

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Here we go…

On September 18th my wife and I ran the Philadelphia Rock ‘n’ Roll Half Marathon. This was my 6th time running this event and my wife’s 5th time. We just seem to keep going back. Actually, we received a promotional email to sign up for the 2017 BEFORE the race and guess what…we are running this event again in 2017.

Before I get into the race itself, this is one of those weekends which pretty much represents the craziness which is me, my family and marathon training. It all started very early on the Friday morning before the race weekend. As some of you may know by now I’m pretty regimented when it comes to following my training plans. The weekend of the 18th my plan called for a 20 mile run. Usually I could figure a way to switch a week but as my wife is currently training for the New York City Marathon and I was only a couple of weeks from the Mohawk Hudson Marathon I would be too close to the race to taper into the event. So, up at 2.00am on Friday morning, time to run 20 miles before heading into the office.

Your eyes do not deceive you. Wake up time says 2:01am...I must have hit snooze!!

Your eyes do not deceive you. Wake up time says 2:01am…I must have hit snooze!!

It was early, it was a beautiful clear sky and a full moon. I had Tina Fey’s “Bossypants” (read by the author) on my iPhone and the 20 miles passed by easily. I ran while laughing which helped. I got my last long run of the training plan done and I could (after the half marathon) begin my marathon taper.

Done!

Done! Umpteen laps around Playwicki Farm

Okay, so here we are. I’ve run 20 miles. Great preparation for a half marathon. But we’re not done yet. Later that day my wife and I attended a friend’s wedding where we had a great evening dancing into the night (and not resting my legs). Going well so far with my race preparation!

Normally before the race we attend the expo. This was held at the Philadelphia Convention Center as in previous years. Unfortunately we had other commitments with a family friend’s daughter’s Bat Mitzvah in the morning and the party that evening. We wouldn’t have had to time go to the expo and get home in time for the evening event. Luckily one of my wife’s running friends who was also running was able to pick up our race packets and my wife went out that afternoon to meet up and collect them so we had time to get ready for the party that night.

Ready to party

Ready to party

The party was a lot of fun. It had a Disney theme and we were dancing all night. This was the first time my boys had been to a party like this and they had a blast. For the adults at the party there was a signature drink. a ‘Hakuna Martini’. I have to say it was nice and sweet. It would have been rude to say no. Luckily for me I was the designated driver so I had only one early in the evening and the rest of the night was just Diet Coke and water.

Certainly so

Certainly so

It was a fun but a late night. The party ended around midnight and we left before we all turned into pumpkins. The boys were both asleep in the car before we pulled out of the parking lot. Ha ha.

So, sleep…are rare commodity this weekend. Let’s see how we do tonight.

Should I worry?

Should I worry?

I didn’t even make 3 hours. So, now I’m just a little tired (an understatement). I know I’ve done slept worse than this during the Disney Marathon weekend, but hey, that’s Disney and every second counts. Some of us may have had a couple of extra Hakuna Martinis the night before. This was going to be a fun race.

So Sunday arrived (early) and we set out to drive downtown to Philadelphia. Upon arrival into Center City I missed my turn and passed the usual parking garage I use for races. Luckily there was another lot across the street (where I used to park when I worked downtown) so the walk to the starting area was the same as in past years.

The race was back to its usual mid-September date. It had been pushed to October 31st last year due to the visit of Pope Francis to Philadelphia last September. The last few times we have run this race (with the exception of the October date) were warm and humid days in late summer. This year the temperatures this year were great. It was in the 60s and cool at the start. It did warm up later in the day but the start was very comfortable.

An early start. Still a little dark just after the sunrise.

An early start. Still a little dark just after the sunrise.

The Rock ‘n’ Roll Half Marathon is a really popular and crowded race. You get there early to avoid the crowds. Luckily we were up in an early corral (#8 of #20+) so we didn’t have too much time to sit around and wait. The race started at 7:30 and we set off at 7:39 according to my Garmin.

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Waiting in our corral to go

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Our view of the start line

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All these people were stacked behind us. The Philadelphia Art Museum and the finish line were behind us

Within the first mile of the race we ran into my wife’s childhood baby sitter. We ran alongside here past the first mile marker as they chatted…I was just along for the ride. We ran on at a comfortable medium pace for the next couple of miles. Around mile 3 my wife’s friend (who had picked up our race packets) ran past us. She was gunning for a new personal record for the half marathon (she ran a 1:53 race) and it was a quick hello and goodbye.

Like last year, the race course had been slightly altered. Miles 1-3 were slightly modified to run along Market Street but included a turn around 22nd Street (behind my old office building). The course last year took us on a short out and back around mile 3 via Spring Garden Street. This year there was another out and back but it was a little further up the course but still around mile 3. This year took us up and back past the Eastern State Penitentiary.

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This years course

Once the out and back was complete the course was the same it was typically in other years. It was up East River Drive/Kelly Drive, crossing the Schuylkill River at the Falls Bridge at mile 8 and then up West River Drive/Martin Luther King Jr. Boulevard.

It had started to warm up but wasn’t sunny. In fact it was more humid than we expected and as a result my running gear which I have worn multiple times for multiple training runs and races actually started to bother me. Around mile 6 I had to pull over to the medical tent to get some Vaseline to help in certain places (shhh….) As I arrived at the tent I asked for what I needed and was told that the volunteers had to apply it. Wow. I wasn’t expecting that and informed them that I was a married man and my wife was only a few feet away…my wife saw what was going on and was cracking up. I was a little embarrassed. It wasn’t as bad as you might be thinking but certainly not what I was expecting. Modesty was maintained through the whole process…

I was also having a little discomfort with my shoe. Although they were not new shoes, my laces just seemed to be uncomfortable so I stopped a few times between mile 7 and 8 to adjust them. My wife hadn’t noticed I had dropped back but I soon caught up with her before the turn across the bridge. Once over the bridge there is a slight downhill before the long straight back into the finish line.

It was around mile 10 that my weekends activities started to affect me. For some reason I just started to lose a bit of my energy. I was taking my Hammer Gels at my usual intervals but my wife started to pull away from me. This was a combination of my 20 mile training run finally reaching my legs and also due to the fact that my wife’s intake of Hakuna Martinis probably started to wear off on her. Just before mile 12 she turned to me and said “I forgot you ran 20 miles on Friday, lets take it a little slower and make it to the finish together” I was relieved.

The camber of the road from mile 11 to 12 is fairly noticeable. First it tilts from left to right and then from right to left. It then starts a gradual uphill before the last quarter of a mile or so of the course which is a steep uphill to the Art Museum steps. If you are tired at this point you definitely feel the change in the road and the elevation. I’ve done this part of the course many times, the Rock n Roll races every year from 2011, my 4 Philadelphia Marathons and other races that take place along the river. Today I was just determined to get it done.

As we approached the finish line we picked up the pace (you have to make it look good in front of the crowd). Our last mile was 30 seconds fast than our previous mile despite the uphill terrain.

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As per usual we crossed the finish line hand in hand.

Our time was 2:07:24. Slower than in previous years. Given our current conditions it wasn’t terrible but we are both quicker than that having run a few races this year in the low 1:50s. Mind you, those races were not after 20 mile training runs, sleep deprivation or Hakuna Martinis. We still had fun.

As we crossed the finish line the temperatures were now into the 70s although thankfully the sun was still behind the clouds. It was warm. We received our medals and a bottle of water and made our way over to the post race refreshments. Before we left the finish line area we picked up some ice cooled towels. They were very welcome. They worked a treat at helping us cool down.

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Receiving another Rock ‘n’ Roll Half Marathon medal

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The ice cooled towels were amazing

We grabbed some refreshments (yeah for chocolate milk) and made our way to pick up our gear bags that we had checked earlier before the race. As we were getting ready to head back to the car we received a text message from my wife’s sister who was with her daughter at soccer practice nearby. We would have to pass by to get back to our car so we stopped over to see them on our way to the parking lot.

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Always happy to see family at the finish line.

As usual for the Rock ‘n’ Roll Philadelphia Half Marathon we had a great time. I didn’t get the chance to meet up with any of my Mickey Milers team mates as we didn’t have time to hang around (we had a baby sitter on the clock) but it was nice to bump into some of my wife’s friends along the way. We will be back in 2017.

Next year we are actually venturing further afield with our Rock ‘n’ Roll races as we are set to run the Rock ‘n’ Roll DC Marathon in March. We probably might consider another Rock ‘n’ Roll event next year if the logistics work out for us. We shall see. They do put on a good race.

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Our reward for another half marathon completed

Thank you for reading.