April and May – Month(s) in review

As I was starting my review for May I realized that I never posted the month in review for April. It may have been that I was a little busy around the month end (see here) which took my mind elsewhere for a few days and I never actually realized my oversight until just now. April, after all, was a pretty big month for me.

April 2014 - Nike+ Summary

April 2014 – Nike+ Summary

My monthly stats show 152 miles but that is not the whole story for the month. I set a new Marathon PR (3:54:30) at the New Jersey Marathon. In addition I ran a the inaugural Philadelphia Hot Chocolate 15K and the Bucks County Half Marathon. With the inaugural Philadelphia LOVE Run back on March 30th this made for a very busy few weeks of training and racing. The cool thing about that is that all my race times were around my marathon goal pace so I actually went into the marathon with confidence. All the hard work paid off. I was a very happy fellow for a few days…until I had to take about 10 days of unforced rest.

Philadelphia Hot Chocolate 15K

Philadelphia Hot Chocolate 15K

Bucks County Half Marathon

Bucks County Half Marathon

What else…oh yes, my wife and I signed up for the Baltimore Running Festival. We will be running the Baltimore Marathon together. My hope is that we can bring her marathon PR down further. I’m confident she can. We also signed up for the 2014 Rock and Roll Philadelphia Half Marathon. I was hesitant to do this again as I have run it for the last 3 years and we had discussed skipping this but for some reason we decided to give it another chance this year. After all, we have a family wedding later this year and we want to look good in the pictures.

April was also registration time for the 2015 Walt Disney World Marathon weekend. Again I signed up with Team Up/Autism Speaks for a third year but this time ‘just’ the Goofy Challenge. My wife also signed up with Team Up so we are fundraising together (harder than training if you ask me). As part of our fundraising efforts we are running two virtual 5K fun run/walk events. This proved both popular and successful for me last year and we are hoping for the same this year. We actually have some really great medals and vendors have been generous to offer some cool prizes for participants this year. I hope you take a few minutes to take a look, perhaps join in one of the events and please do share this with your friends/running partners. It should be fun. Here are the medals designed for the events.

005K medal

005K medal

Going Goofy

Going Goofy

With a rather abrupt end to April (running wise) and a short break in training in May I had some ground to make up…well, really I was antsy and wanted to get back out there ASAP. Here is my recap for May.

May 2014 - Nike+ Summary

May 2014 – Nike+ Summary

I still managed to get 113 training miles in during the month and was very grateful to be able to do so. The weather outside in May has been glorious. Yes, there have been some cool mornings but with the exception of a couple of rainy runs it has been great to be outdoors in the early mornings as the sun is rising and get my runs in. Now that I am training using Hal Higdon’s Intermediate 2 training program my weekday mileage has crept up a little. I’m glad for the extra sunlight so I am not so reliant on the headlamp right now.

My wife ran in a couple of races this month. Early in May she ran a new PR at the Broad Street Run 10 miler in Philadelphia and on Mother’s Day I signed her up for a local 10K where she came back with a 2nd place age group finisher award. Go Shari!!! I’m a big fan (when I can keep up with her).

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)

The rest of this month has really been focused on managing the new training program and the increase in mileage. I am trying to follow the program diligently and doing the pace runs before the long runs. So far so good. Holding about an 8:30 min/mile pace on the hilly course where I train so I’m pleased with that.

On Memorial Day I finally took the bike out for my first ride of the season. I’m pleased to say that I got in 20 miles and felt comfortable. I have signed up for a third year now for the Cycle Bucks County riding event in June so I’m looking forward to that. I think 25 miles is my comfort level when it comes to cycling right now. I’m not yet ready for the Ironman training.

Memorial Day was also the last time we did a family run with our double stroller. The boys are just too big. We bought the double stroller back in 2012 so that my wife and I could both run together with the boys. We have put on well over 150 miles running together with the stroller including three 5K races as well as a couple of long vacation runs. We figured that the boys were on the cusp of the weight limit at the end of last summer but held on to it over the winter. We took it out on Memorial Day and I just couldn’t keep up with my wife. My boys are getting bigger and we were not able to keep up with each other. It was time for it to go but we had some great times running and a lot of fun. It went to a good home.

Our last stroller run. As you can see, the boys are big enough to push me.

As you can see, the boys are big enough to push me.

With the good results of the medical procedure behind me I can now concentrate on other matters. One thing I wanted to look at since I PR’d at the New Jersey Marathon is a chance to better it. I think I can do it. I signed up for a local marathon held in late summer on a flat and fast course along the Delaware Canal Towpath. It is in August so there may be some heat to deal with but that is my goal and after that I can enjoy Baltimore and then Goofy with my wife.

I’ve also signed up for the Gary Papa Father’s Day 5K in Philadelphia. I ran this back in 2012 and this is still my 5K PR (23:31) although I don’t run many anymore. I haven’t decided if I am going to race this for a PR or do this for fun. We shall see how I feel closer to the date. It is a good fundraiser for prostate cancer awareness and draws a large number of entrants. It is a fairly flat and fast course down by the Philadelphia Museum of Art. That is coming up on Father’s Day (June 15).

Also, I finally I decided to sign up for a race that I had been tempted to in the past but had not done yet. A midnight 8 miler in July as part of the ‘philadelphia#in24‘ series of races taking place along the banks of the Schuylkill River in Philadelphia on July 19 through the 20th. It is a 24 hour event featuring an ultra marathon, a relay challenge, a midnight run and a 5K. Should be fun. I’ll be there all lit up in lights and reflective gear.

I have a pretty busy season coming up and lots to look forward to. It’s not all running though. As much as my wife and I pack in with our training and racing we still have plenty of time for our boys. There is a swimming pool in our development for those hot summer afternoons, we just bought a trampoline so our kids can tire themselves out (hopefully) as well as memberships at Sesame Place, the Adventure Aquarium in New Jersey, the Philadelphia Zoo and the Academy of Natural Sciences in Philadelphia (thank you Groupon for all you do!). We are also planning a weekend in New York City with the boys and are planning a trip to the Statue of Liberty. As I said, running is just part of our lives…not all that we do.

Thanks for reading. Hope you are having a good start to the summer.

Hot Chocolate Run 15K Race Recap

Hot Chocolate Race Series

Hot Chocolate Race Series

Yesterday I ran the Hot Chocolate Run 15K in Philadelphia together with my wife, family and friends. It was ‘Finger Lickin’ Good!’

This was the first time that the Hot Chocolate race series had come to Philadelphia. I remember encountering them for the first time during the expo at last years ‘Rock ‘n’ Roll Philadelphia Half Marathon’ where they won me over with the chocolate fondue. Did I mention there was chocolate involved? This race happened to achieve two fixes for my addictions…running and chocolate. Not always on that order but they mix well.

Whilst we didn’t attend packet pickup ourselves (shout out to our friend Zara) there was no actual expo for this race and bib and swag pickup was held in two local running stores. The swag itself was a color coordinate cinch sack (which we used for gear check), pink for ladies and blue for men and everyone received a blue or pink technical hoodie. The hoodies were gender specific so ladies had a specific cut to them which was nice. Zara made a goody bag of candy for everyone who she picked up race bibs for (I think it was at least 10 people). Thanks for the Ghiradelli ‘Z’ 🙂

My 'Hot Chocolate' Hoodie

My ‘Hot Chocolate’ Hoodie

When we first signed up for this race my wife commented that a hot chocolate race in April didn’t seem right as it was now Spring. Well, as we walked from the parking to the start line shivering yesterday she agreed it was a great idea. Compared to last weeks ‘LOVE Run’ Half Marathon in the cold and rain I was much happier with the conditions, even though it was colder it wasn’t raining.

We got up early, met my sister and law and her fiancé and we all traveled down to Philadelphia together. There was a 5K race about 45 minutes before the 15K started so we arrived early in case the streets around the starting area were blocked off from traffic.

I wasn’t sure how I planned to run the race as I actually ran my last long run for the upcoming New Jersey Marathon (20 miles) the previous day, but having taken an ice bath, stretched and slept in a pair of compression sleeves the night before I felt good (tired but good). Having had a good stretch in the parking lot we walked to the starting area just as the 5K corrals were being let go. We met up with our friends, checked the bags and tried to stay warm. Handy hint – keep your Mylar blankets from previous races, they come in useful on these cold morning starts.

Mylar and My Love

Mylar and My Love

Also new today I was wearing a ‘Buff Band‘. I usually run in a hat or visor but decided after some recommendations from friends to try something new today. It was comfortable and kept my ears warm without getting me too warm which a beanie would have. The temperatures were predicted to be warmer around the time we were due to finish and having raced in a beanie before I know how warm I can get.

There were 7 of us all starting in the same corral and my wife and I planned to stick together as best we could during the race. Interestingly I had never ‘raced’ this distance so a PR was on the cards for the day 🙂

Trying to stay warm at the start line

Trying to stay warm at the start line

Waiting in our corral for the start

Waiting in our corral for the start

There are so many options for race courses in a Philadelphia but most start and finish around Eakins Oval just opposite the Philadelphia Museum of Art (think ‘Rocky’ steps). This course headed out along the Benjamin Franklin Parkway, ran a loop clockwise around the circle at Logan Square and then back up to the Art Museum, running to the left along an out and back on West River Drive to finish at the steps of the Art Museum. A nice, fairly flat (except for last 1/4 mile) run along the river on a nice spring morning.

Course map

Course map

My wife and I started out together and I planned on taking my usual run/walk intervals(4:00/0:50) with the plan on staying close by my wife so we can run side by side. Fine in theory…problem is that she is getting faster!!! I would end my walk break sprinting to catch up with her just to have a walk break hit as we settled in again. D’oh! Anyway, we were always in sight of each other so it wasn’t a problem. There were 4 water stops on the course (actually 2 but they covered both sides on the out and back part) and there was also a ‘Chocolate station’ according to the pre race map. In actually reality the chocolate station was a guy holding a large back of miniature chocolates. I passed on this but my wife grabbed a few. I’m a big fan of dark chocolate…my wife, not so much. Also, the chocolate station was placed at the end of the water station and I heard a few people complain that it is difficult to run and suck down chocolate without water #runnerproblems

At the turn around I decide to ditch the walk/run intervals and run back in with my wife as there were only 4 miles left and I was feeling okay. We were running a decent pace which was about 8:45-8:50 minute miles. The sun was shining and when we were not in the shade the temperatures were great for running. We saw our family and friends as we were on the back portion. I find it is always easier and a good distraction to look out for folks when you are running. It takes your mind of what you are actually doing LOL.

We walked through the water station around the 10K mark and with a 5K left to go we buckled down for the finish. Actually picking the pace up a little. My wife wanted some water as we entered the final couple of miles but the water station didn’t appear until almost mile 9 which was a bit late as there was only 0.3 miles left to go. The sun was out and we saw the finish line in sight and sprinted to the finish line together. We crossed the line in 1:22:36 at an overall 8:53 pace per mile. A good race and we were feeling fine.

Feeling fine at the finish line

Feeling fine at the finish line

Now came the best part of the race (although I may be biased). Once getting through the finished chute everyone was handed a bottle of water and then we could head over to the Hot Chocolate tent. Let’s be honest, there was only one reason I agreed to run this. Did I mention there was chocolate? 🙂

Folks enjoying their fondue...respecting the public art

Folks enjoying their fondue…respecting the public art

What magic lies within this tent?

What magic lies within this tent?

Attached to everyone’s bib was a voucher for a hot chocolate mug. We headed over to the tent where everyone was provided with a giant mug which contained a cup of hot chocolate in the middle and in compartments around that was chocolate fondue and to dip in there was a marshmallow, a Rice Krispie treat, some pretzels, some graham crackers and a banana (I assume for the health conscious LOL). Did I mention there was chocolate?

Yum!!!

Yum!!!

Eat me...

Eat me…

Don't tell our kids...we tell them running is healthy :-)

Don’t tell our kids…we tell them running is healthy 🙂

Define 'sugar rush'!

Define ‘sugar rush’!

My wife and I found a place to sit and then, as my wife will tell you, ate the whole post race food 🙂 We joked that we never eat all the food they give us but this was an exception. I have to say it was very rewarding and we had a blast with this. Sugar highs made us both giggle and we were as messy as they come. Eating chocolate fondue is fun. I was so messy even my 3 year old would comment on the mess I was making. They provided a complimentary ‘moist towelette’ with the mug and it was woefully inadequate for me. I think I needed to be hosed down as I was wearing so much chocolate. I eventually ran out of things to dip into the fondue…that’s what fingers are for, right?

Once my wife and I managed to clean ourselves up (to be at least presentable) we walked around and took some pictures and checked out some of the merchandise while we waited for everyone. It was funny, on the drive down my wife commented that she cannot see this as a race she would want to repeat as the race gear seems to be generic without the year noted on the swag. After the post races goodies she changed her mind 🙂 That may have been the fondue talking. I myself might not do the 15K again but I would absolutely do the 5K run with my eldest who will be 8 next year, however I will put a packet of baby wipes in my gear bag if he gets anywhere near the fondue 😉

Mission accomplished

Mission accomplished

With 'Marshall'

With ‘Marshall’

Did I mention there was chocolate?

Did I mention there was chocolate?

I’d recommend this race as a fun race for folks. If you want to run a 5K this is definitely one to do with family and friends. For those looking to build up from a 10K but not ready for a half marathon this is an opportunity to run a unique distance on a nice course. Of course the post race treats are a great reward. Did I mention there was chocolate? 🙂