2018 Delaware Marathon – race recap

It’s been many months since I last updated anything on the blog…and I was already a few months behind with that post too. So with some big races still to write-up I need to catch up on all that has gone on since my last post.

Following on from the Walt Disney World marathon weekend I had a pretty quiet Winter/Spring. In the last few years I have always taken part in a late winter/early spring half marathon and then worked up to a spring marathon. This year, however, I skipped the half marathon and used the time to prepare for the Delaware Marathon which took place on April 28th.

Training through the winter is not one of my favorite things to do but does demonstrate commitment to your goals.  With the snowy, cold and icy winter we had I had to maximize outdoor runs while minimizing risk of slips/falls/frostbite(!!!), so there were a lot of indoor treadmill sessions. At one point during this training cycle I managed to break the treadmill!!! It was winter and my wife and I were using the treadmill everyday so packing on a large number of miles each day and ultimately one day the drive belt just gave up and it stopped (apparently you have to maintain and lubricate the track…oops). Luckily we were able to get an engineer out and have it fixed and I was able to mix up some outdoor workouts with my gym membership which I keep as back up. Lesson learned. I keep a maintenance kit and now have the engineer’s business card attached to my refrigerator for regular maintenance.

With ‘disaster’ averted (my wife blamed me for that one) we were back on track. I was feeling good going into the Delaware Marathon. The race began and finished on the Wilmington waterfront and was a two loop race. This race was run by Corrigan Sports who also run the Baltimore Marathon that my wife and I ran back in 2014. That was a well-organized race although much bigger than Delaware. Here they still put on multiple races; a full marathon, half marathon and marathon relay.

The expo was held at the DoubleTree Hotel in Wilmington, Delaware. I travelled down on the Saturday before the race for packet pickup. Although I work closer to Delaware I was unable to go after work before the weekend. The drive to Delaware was just over an hour and this was partially the reason I picked the race as I didn’t need to be away from home or get a room overnight. The expo however was actually much smaller than I anticipated. I paid for an hour on the meter and I was in and out within 20 minutes. Packet pickup was quick, efficient and easy. The race shirt was Under Armor (as was the Baltimore Marathon…good to have a race team based around Baltimore).

Small expo for this race. It took longer to find street parking than the time I spent in the expo.

Quick and easy packet pick up

The race is 2 loops of the same 13.1 course!

Obligatory pre race bib photo

Making sure I had my usual pre-race cookie I settled in for an early night. You will note that my ‘flat Ian’ is well dressed. I made an effort, after all, Delaware is the ‘First State’.

Pre race oatmeal raisin cookie…have to keep the ‘tradition’ alive

I went for the ‘dapper’ look for this race. #makinganeffort

Race day arrived and I got up early….really early. I wanted to make sure I was able to park close to the race location before the roads began to close. I needn’t have worried. It was an easy drive and the parking lot was just over the street from the race village. I got there early (I mean really early) and hung with the growing crowd until time came to get into the corrals. I was aiming for a race between 3:50 and 4:00 which may have been a bit ambitious (seeing as I had a few extra winter pounds on my frame). It was a beautiful morning but a little chilly at the start of the race. I felt toasty(ish) in my large plastic bag that is now a staple of my race gear. Once installed in my corral I waited for the signal to go.

Arriving at the starting area

Dunkin were providing coffee to keep runners warm

The race started and finished at Tubman-Garrett Riverfront Park on the Delaware waterfront

Waiting to go. My toasty warm trash bag did the trick on the chilly morning

Once we were out and on the route I felt pretty good. I was managing my first few miles around the 8:15-8:30 pace and feeling pretty comfortable…and then there was the hill after Brandywine Park. It was quite unrelenting and lasted almost two miles straight up. I slowed down a little but was able to continue running. My splits were fairly consistent for the first half of the race. I was pretty pleased I had managed the initial climb up the hill in Brandywine Park without stopping…at least the first time. Then all of a sudden at mile 12 to 13 someone had put another hill on the course!!!!

My first half splits. Pretty consistent.

I’ll be honest. I knew this course was considered hilly but I still was not prepared for where exactly in the race these hills would be. The run up from mile 12 to 13 was tough. As this was a loop I would be running again I knew that this hill would again be appearing but between mile 25 to 26. I wasn’t looking forward to that and I think I let that thought get in my head. I was pretty tired when I hit the halfway point. My first half split was 1:53:29 with an average pace of 8:40/mile. This was what I had been hoping for in training. I was hoping I could sustain this for the second half.

As this was where the half marathoners and marathoners split, the runners thinned out pretty quickly. We were directed to take a quick out and back along the waterfront as part of the turnaround for the marathon. It wasn’t clearly signed and a few of us were not quite sure where the turnaround was. I saw one guy continue running, and was unsure and turned around where I thought I had seen other people turn around only to worry for the next mile or so that I had cut the course short. I kept asking people running along side me. Ultimately my mileage and my race tracking showed me I hadn’t cut the course.

The second loop started off with that worry and the knowledge of the hills that were to come. My second round of splits really told the story. It was almost immediate that I slowed down. By the time I got to Brandywine Park I was almost 2 minutes per mile slower….ignore the splits shown from mile 22-24…I hit my lap button by mistake and was just trying to get aligned with the mile markers. The second half of the course had much less runners and as we were going through mostly residential areas the spectators were limited. There were a few fresh legged relay runners….grrrr…they don’t make you feel good as you are struggling late in a race. I will say though that the day was beautiful and the sun was out.

My second half splits

Once I had the hill at my 25 again I knew that the second half struggle was nearly over. It was a shame. I felt fairly good coming into this but I was just tired. I didn’t have the energy to sustain my second loop. My second half split was 2:15:59, over 20 minutes slower. Still, crossing a marathon finish line is always a win so with a combined time of 4:09:28 it was still not my worst by any means. As you can see from my picture below, I’m still smiling.

A finish line is always a win

The race itself was well supported although there could be have been a few more water stops on the back half of the loop. As this was primarily residential I can see how this may have been tough logistically. I think the race team did a great job but I think this is going to be a one and done race for me….those hills!!!!

My elevation map. That last little blip at mile 12 and mile 25 were tough

Thank you for reading.

 

2016 Rutgers UNITE Half Marathon – Race recap

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On Sunday April 17th I ran my 20th half marathon, the Rutgers UNITE Half Marathon. It was a race I ran in 2015 and really enjoyed (I had a good race after a long winter) and it fit nicely into my training plan for the upcoming New Jersey Marathon. This was another race put on by CGI Racing who also host the Love Run Philly and the New Jersey State Triathlon, both of which I have participated in over the last couple of years. They do put on a good event.

I was looking forward to this race as I remember it being a fast and fairly flat course and was looking forward to seeing how my pace was during race conditions. I’ve been taking it a little easy this winter as my goal is to stay fit and healthy for the upcoming HITS Hudson Valley Triathlon this July. My goal race is the Mohawk Hudson River Marathon in October. I was close to my PR last year and I felt that it was achievable the way I was training.

This year I opted to pay an extra $15 for race day packet pickup so I didn’t get to attend the expo. From what I recall from 2015 it was a small expo so I didn’t miss out on too much. The extra $15 was probably the gas and tolls I would have spent driving up and back prior to the race.

The forecast was looking good and so I was able to put away the winter gear and planned on wearing a short sleeve shirt. I decided that this was a good enough excuse to debut my new INKnBURN Magnum PI tech shirt. Actually, I didn’t really need an excuse.

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Hard to tell the difference I know!!

I grabbed a cup of coffee and one of my new Honey Stinger waffles (mmm….tasty) for my pre-race breakfast and set out while it was still dark for the 40 mile or so drive to the start line. I got there early on and was parked fairly close to the start line and was able to walk to packet pickup and back to my warm car (it was still a little chilly in the early hours). Packet pickup was quick and seamless, although I was told I had to pick up my shirt and mug at the finish line. Not a big deal. In fact, I probably could have arrived a little later as it was a quicker process than I thought. My tip, register for morning of race packet pickup.

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You know when you have arrived on campus

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Packet pickup was quick and easy. Just had to show ID.

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Packet pickup was quick and easy. Just had to show ID.

It had not warmed up by the time I left my car so I was wearing a warm up jacket which I planned to check so I would have it at the finish line. I had packed a large trash bag to wear in the start chute so headed out to bag check. While I was there I met up with fellow Mickey Miler and host of the Runner Of A Certain Age podcast, John. It was thanks to John that I signed up for this race last year. I hadn’t seen him for a while but I had been a guest on his podcast a couple of times before and we keep in touch on social media.

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Meeting up with John pre-race.

In writing this recap I took a look at my last year recap. As you can see below, this picture made me chuckle when I re-read last year as we took the same photo in the same spot.

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Meeting up with John (host of ‘The Runner Of A Certain Age’ podcast)

It was almost time to start so we made our way over to the start line. I made the same mistake as I had the previous year and entered the chute at the back and had to make my way forward between the 8 and 9 minute pace groups. There were no corral placements, you would just line up at the approximate pace you planned to run. It was only when I reached that point that I realized I could have entered the chute from the side. Oh well. Not a big deal and I was very polite as I made my way forward. I was wearing my trash bag to keep warm but realized I didn’t need it as it was warming up nicely so I took it off to the side and waited for the gun.

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I made my way from the back to my pace time area.

 

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Always a stylish choice. Black goes with everything.

 

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I made it a little closer to the front.

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Get the chopper TC. I’ll meet you at Rick’s for a cold one after the race.

As this was a goal race, I didn’t stop to take pictures of the course. The course itself was a little changed up from last year. There was more time on the newer side of the campus and it seemed to take us around more of the back of house areas than through the campus itself. There isn’t much course support from spectators as such on the back side of the campus (glad I wore my headphones) and there is only so much maintenance equipment and housing blocks you can see before you get bored. The second half of the race (once crossing over the highway) is more picturesque as you run through a park but you really don’t hit the campus area until after the finish.

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2016 Course – more time at the back of the campus

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2015 Course – more time in the park

About 15 minutes after the half marathon started the organizers sent off the 8K runners. They started on the same place as we did but on the opposite side of the start line. Essentially they run the last 8K of the half marathon distance and would explain why we ran back through the start line around mile 8. It was noticeable that there were more water stations on the second half of the course as a result.

Personally I was having a fairly decent race. I was feeling good and the course wasn’t too congested. There were some nice open stretches and for the short inclines, there were plenty of declines. It was a fairly limited elevation through the first 8 miles. Here are my splits for the first 8 miles.

First half

My first half splits.

I was feeling good going into the second half the race. My 10K split was within a couple of minutes of my 10K PR so all I had to do was keep it going.

As I was going well I started to do running math in my head. Big mistake. It was a distraction and my numbers and timing didn’t seem to make sense. I abandoned that as it is a bad habit. I didn’t think I could make my goal time (sub 1:50) but I still knew I could make a good go of the race. There are no pictures that I took on the course but I did get this professional shot from the second half of the race.

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Doing my best Flyin’ Hawaiian pose.

The second half of the course in the park features a long out and back. It is about a mile and a half or so. As I had run this last year I had a sense of where I was. I remember it feeling a lot longer last year as it always does when you don’t know where the turn around is. I found this section a lot more comfortable to do this year.

Once out of the park you run through the back of a nearby neighborhood and into another park. The last couple of miles have the two biggest inclines (not hills as such). There is a final turnaround in the park as we run around a gazebo. It was at this point when I hit a mile to go that I realized I wasn’t going to hit my sub 1:50 goal, I was getting a little tired. I still thought I could be close to a PR but either way I knew it would be a good run for me.

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My second half splits. It shows that I slowed around mile 10.

After the final crest of course it is all downhill to the finish line. I just picked up my pace and ran it in. I was feeling strong and pushed through to the end.

I crossed the finish line with a time of 1:51:55. Really happy with my time but sad because I hadn’t PR’d. Still, I felt good.

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I grabbed a bottle of water and excited the finish chute making sure to take a couple of photos to document the experience.

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It was a great run in to the finish line.

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Happy to be done. I worked hard.

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The medal was so much nicer this year.

Before I left the finish line I took a quick look at my running data to see how close I had been to a PR when I realized that I actually had PR’d the race. No wonder my math hadn’t worked out on the course. I had my old PR of 1:52.43 (2013 Atlantic City April Fool’s Half Marathon recap) wrong in my head and I actually PR’d the race by almost a minute.

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My official finish time.

Needless to say I was very happy once I realized. It had been over 3 years since I PR’d so you can excuse me for forgetting!

Once past the finish chute we were shepherded out to the food and back check areas. The food was well organized. Everyone was given a plastic bag containing post race refreshments as well as more water and they had Coke/Diet Coke available (although I haven’t touched soda since last August).

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Post race refreshments were restricted to runners only.

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Food bags were well organized and runners were moved very quickly through the tent.

We then were able to sit and stretch out on the lawn area just outside of the race set up. This is really a wonderful area to sit and cool down after the race. It really was the most picturesque part of the day. Shame it was after the race and not during.

 

 

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Post race food done right. There was also a bag of potato chips included.

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Definitely earned this today.

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Some nice views of the post race area.

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A great place to rest up and relax post race.

After sitting for a while I went to bag check to receive my bag. I didn’t need my jacket after all as the weather was glorious. The bag did come in useful though as I had to pick up my race shirt and mug and it was nice to have something to pack it all up as I then had to line up for the shuttle to return to the starting line to get my car.

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In additional to my medal and race shirt (not shown) I got my race mug which CGI gives out for each race.

Really pleased with my day and again this would be a race I would recommend and return to. I think I would like my wife run it next year so she gets a chance and I will do something else, probably the Love Run Philly as they are back to back weeks and both run by the same company.

I guess it was all down to the shirt for me. I was thinking of heading the blog ‘Magnum PR’ but that would have been a little too cheesy.

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I outran ‘Apollo’ and ‘Zeus’ to earn my PR.

Thanks for reading. Sorry about all the Magnum references 🙂

Washington Crossing Revolutionary Run 10K – Race recap

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On July 4th this year I signed up on the day and took part in the Washington’s Crossing Revolutionary Run 10K. This was quite a change for me as I usually don’t do many races last minute. I’m quite the planner when it comes to my race activities (see here). This is also the location where I did the Bucks County Duathlon and the ‘Chasing The Unicorn’ Marathon.

On the day before the race I saw a message from a friend and Mickey Milers teammate saying he would be in the area for the weekend and was looking to see if anyone was interested in running this race. For the last few years we have always been away for the holiday weekend and in the years prior to that I wasn’t a runner so this race was never on my radar. So, my wife gave me the ok and I was all set to go. I mentioned it to my father in law at dinner the night before the race and he said he was interested in joining me. Ultimately my friend had a very long day in New York City and decided that he wasn’t going to be there so my father in law planned to go if the weather cooperated in the morning.

The race start was 8:30 am and was a 20 minute ride from my house so I got to sleep in a little. Hey, it was a holiday weekend. The rain early in the morning stopped around 6am and we decided to make a go of it. We arrived early enough to register and saw that there were plenty of same day participants. The parking was down the street from the start/finish area in Washington Crossing Historic Park but was easily walkable. It was a much more crowded event than I had anticipated.

As it was July 4th I was prepared with my INKnBURN ‘Sam’ Tech Shirt. Yes, as long as I kept my mouth shut, no-one would be the wiser that this incarnation of Uncle Sam was originally from Great Britain. I guess there is some irony in me wearing the shirt. Anyway, I was there representing all naturalized US citizens so I could get away with it….just. I don’t think my father in law was too impressed but I think he knows me well enough now that nothing surprises him anymore 🙂

Uncle Sam...or Sam I Am?

Uncle Sam…or Sam I Am?

Who wore it best?

Who wore it best?

Yes...he's probable pretending he doesn't know me right now

Yes…he’s probable pretending he doesn’t know me right now

There were 3 races, a 1 mile fun run, a 5K and a 10K. All were timed at separate intervals of 15 minutes between each start so we had time as the earlier races moved to their designated points.

We didn’t see the 1 mile fun run go off but we headed to our designated starting line (the one spray painted on the road outside the park) and waited in the corral/crowd with everyone else.

The 5K crowd was lined up just ahead of us.

The 5K crowd was lined up just ahead of us

We waited another 15 mnutes at the 10K start before it was our turn

We waited another 15 mnutes at the 10K start before it was our turn

Ready to go

Ready to go

So…when you are at Washington’s Crossing Historic Park on July 4th you tend to see a lot of Revolutionary War reenactors and today was no different. We were actually lined up next to an area where they were setting up a period style outdoor camp for later in the day. The race director gave out instructions for the 5K ahead of us and said to wait for the ‘go’. He didn’t mention what the ‘go’ signal was, or if he did we didn’t hear him. We were chatting away in the corral when there was the most incredibly sharp BANG! Yes, the starting gun was a Revolutionary period musket. We both jumped as we were not expecting that. Okay, we knew what the ‘go’ was now for the 10K but again where we were in the crowd for the 10K start we didn’t hear the race director’s instructions for our turn to go and again we were caught off guard when the musket was fired again. I can only imagine how my heart rate spiked at that point. Funny though. You’d have thought we would have been a little more aware. Maybe my shirt was distracting people 😉

The course itself took a small loop inside the park and then there was an out and back for about 5 miles on River Road (Pennsylvania side) which was closed off for the occassion follwed by another half mile loop around through the park to the finish line. It was a fairly flat course with the only elevation towards the turnaround. There were adequate water stations on the course which was good for it is was a hot and humid morning. For the 10K I wore my daily use water belt so I didn’t really have to stop as I had an 8 ounce bottle with me.

10K course along the Delaware River (Pennsylvania side)

10K course along the Delaware River

As I wasn’t really planning to run this event I had no expectations on time or any planned pace but I just went out and ran how I felt. Since I’ve been experiencing a back issue for the last couple of months (in fact I had already visited the chiropractor twice in the last three days) I wasn’t sure what I would feel like.

Well, I guess I just got all caught up in the excitement of it all. It was very crowded at the start so I skipped my usual Galloway run/walk interval but settled in soon after that and managed to hold a good pace. As the course was relatively flat it was nice and easy to maintain my pace. We ran in the shade of the trees alongside the river (although it was overcast) but it was still a hot and humid day.

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I managed to complete my 10K in a time of 52:34. Not close to my PR from a couple of years ago (I don’t run many 10K’s) but respectable enough for me based upon my recent form.

Race Result

Race Result

After the finish. The shirt was a hit with the spectators.

After the finish. The shirt was a hit with the spectators.

My father in law came in just after the hour mark and he seemed happy too, especially as it had suddenly become much warmer towards the end of the race.

My father in law in action

My father in law in action

I was pretty happy with the result and pretty happy with the slices of fresh watermelon at the finish. It was a sweet reward for a last minute race. After that we headed back home and spent the rest of the holiday with the family at the pool before catching some fireworks later in the day.

Hope you all had a very good 4th July holiday wherever and however you celebrated.

Thanks for reading.

 

2015 Pittsburgh Marathon – Race recap

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On May 3rd my wife and I ran the 2015 Dick’s Sporting Goods Pittsburgh Marathon. This was my 12th full marathon and my wife’s 5th. I guess we are hooked at this point.

I had wanted to run this marathon for a couple of years. Each of the last two years clashed with either the New Jersey Marathon or the Broad Street Run. Both my wife and decided to forgo these options and we signed up last September for Pittsburgh when the race registration opened up. Between September last year and May this year we both ran the Baltimore Marathon and the Walt Disney World Marathon (and Goofy Challenge). I don’t think either of us had taken a break in training since last summer.

We decided to make this a family trip with our two boys as we had wanted to take them to Pittsburgh to show them where my wife had gone to college. She is an alum of Pittsburgh University and my wife and I hadn’t been in Pittsburgh toghether since 2003 and not yet with the boys. Originally we had planned to head out on the Friday afternoon and stay through Sunday but after the hotel debacle at the Baltimore Marathon last year we changed our reservation to arrive on the Saturday and stay through the Monday. At least we would have a place to shower post race! It was also going to be just the four of us on this trip so we had to find someone to look after the boys while we were running. I am thankful for the magic of Facebook and my wife’s connections.

I had been struggling with a back issue since March and so the day before the trip I booked an appointment with my chiropractor to ‘straighten me out’. I always get a realignment before a race but I somehow cannot seem to shift this current issue. So with the adjustment made I took it easy that day and tried to get a good nights sleep. I woke up on Saturday morning and I could barely stand. Not a good start to the weekend. Ahead of me was a 5 hour drive…

We started our day like a usual school day and were out the door around 7:30am. It was a beautiful day and there was little to no traffic for the journey. I was, to say the least, very uncomfortable. I couldn’t sit without pain. Everyone was asleep in the car and I was tossing around the idea of whether or not I would even start the next day. We pulled in at a rest stop after 3 hours to refuel and take a snack break with the boys. I did the best I could to move around and loosen up. Still no good. Oh well…only another 2 hours left to drive 😦

Finally we made it to Pittsburgh and we headed straight to the Expo at the David L. Lawrence Convention Center in the city. We parked as close as we could and headed in. I was still not feeling great. My plan was to find someone offering free massage at the Expo! Worth a try.

We have arrived at the expo

We have arrived at the Expo

Ready for the expo

Ready for the Expo

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Once inside we headed up to the Health and Fitness Expo

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Up these cool stairs to the Expo

The Expo itself was a decent size, there were three concurrent races going on after all (the full, the half and the marathon relay). There were lots of vendors and the room was pretty tight to maneuver. The bib and shirt pickup was on the right of the hall and the packet and race gear bag was on the opposite side…therefore you had to navigate through the Expo to get both. Clever!!!

We are here

We are here – Game On Pittsburgh

Bib pickup

Bib pickup

Shirt pickup. Green for the gents and pink for the ladies

Shirt pickup. Green for the gents and pink for the ladies

I ran ahead and got our gear bags while my wife stayed with the boys who were making cheer signs for us.

The little half of the cheer squad

The little half of the cheer squad

The big half of the cheer squad

The big half of the cheer squad

We then headed to look around the hall. We took turns down each aisle so the boys were being supervised. It was a big and crowded hall and although there was a small children’s area it only kept the boys occupied for so long. Finally when it was my turn to look I found someone demoing a TENS muscle stimulation machine. I sat right down and had the vendor attach the patches all over my back and cranked that sucker up. I made it about 10 minutes before I finally felt okay to move on. It did help a little.

We took the chance to explore the Expo. We saw the actual medal for the first time. Big and heavy. Hey, the slogan is ‘Runner of Steel’ for a reason you know. We also were able to find ourselves on the wall of entrants to the race. Cool.

Here it is. Tomorrow's reward

Here it is. Tomorrow’s reward

Wall of entrants

Wall of entrants

Hey, I know these people

Hey, I know these people

Bridge photo op!!!

Bridge photo op!!!

Official merchandise section

Official merchandise section

This was actually one of the first Expos where both my wife and I walked out empty handed. We were looking for a cool Pittsburgh Marathon souvenir but by the time we got to the Expo on Saturday afternoon there was no merchandise left save for a few baseball caps and some cotton tees. Disappointing to say the least. No mugs, cups, or anything similar. 😦 At least I was able to move again.

We headed from the Expo to our hotel. We had booked at the Doubletree in Bigelow Square which was less than a mile from the starting area…and happened to also be less than a mile from the Expo. Wish I had known that before I threw the car in the expensive parking lot!!! A cool touch when arriving at the hotel was that if you told them you were checking in for the Marathon they provided you with a specially themed roomed key.

The hotel room keys were branded with the Marathon logo for guests

The hotel room keys were branded with the Marathon logo for guests

We set ourselves up in the room. I went to lay down for a rest after the long drive and the boys played in the room (we had a suite) while my wife went out for a walk around the area to scope things out. When she got back we got ready to meet up with an old college friend of hers for dinner. We took a trip out of the city and into the suburbs and met up with them at Bucca di Beppo in Robinson Town Center. It was a nice dinner and the friends had two children the same ages as ours so it was a really pleasant and relaxing evening.

As we headed out of the restaurant my wife spotted an Eat ‘n’ Park restaurant. I had been talking with the boys about these special cookies that they are famous for. I did what was probably an illegal u-turn, pulled into the parking lot and told the boys to wait in the car with their Mommy. I’d be back in a few minutes 🙂

Part of the Pittsburgh experience and not to be missed (by us anyway)

Part of the Pittsburgh experience and not to be missed (by us anyway)

A few minutes later I stepped back in the car with a box of cookies and we took the best family photo ever!!

Raising our kids right

Raising our kids right. Cookies before bedtime.

Thus, I continued my usual tradition of a cookie the night before a marathon. The boys were tired enough even the sugar cookies didn’t keep them up too long after.

With the race the next day I set out my gear and set about rolling out my muscles with my Tiger Tail stick massager. My wife worked deep on my back and I finally felt like I was able to move enough without too much discomfort. With that I hit the pillow and waited for the morning alarm call.

Ready for the big day

Ready for the big day

We woke up around 4am as we had told the babysitter that the roads would be closing and they she should get there early. The good news was that I felt so much better than the day before. Not pain free but totally not to the point that I was bothered by anything. I was going to make it after all (to the start line at least). Both my wife and I were up and dressed by the time the babysitter arrived. She was early…and on a bike. Genius!!! Had we known she was going to cycle in we would have told her a much later time.

Rather than sit in the room with the babysitter we decided to head down to the lobby around 5:15am where the hotel had set up pre-race refreshments for the runners staying in the hotel.

One of us was more awake than the other

One of us was more awake than the other

Pre-race food. Can you tell what was missing?

Pre-race food. Can you tell what was missing?

Yes, they even had a security guard at the table

Yes, they even had a security guard at the table

We watched as a steady stream of runners came down to pick up some food. Each and every one who came down asked for coffee. Yup, that was what was missing. Unbelievable. It was 5am and the hotel did not provide any coffee even as more and more people were requesting it. They didn’t think to send someone over to the kitchen. They told folks that there was a Starbucks up the street. I’m not sure about you but I don’t know many Starbucks that open up at 5am on a Sunday morning. Oh well, the 7-11 was also nearby. But that opens up at…you guessed it…7am!!!! So with no coffee, people grabbed food and headed back to their rooms or milled around the lobby.

Around 6:15am we decided to make our way over to the starting corrals. They were laid out in specific streets. Corrals were between blocks with an empty street between for foot traffic before the start and when the corrals moved up. We checked our bags and hit the portapotties one last time. It was a chilly in the air and we used old mylar blankets from a previous race until it was time to start.

Keeping toasty in our mylar

Keeping toasty in our mylar

Corrals were set up within city blocks

Corrals were set up within city blocks

Approaching the start line. Almost showtime.

Approaching the start line. Almost showtime.

Okay....SHOWTIME!!!

Okay….SHOWTIME!!!

And we were off

And we were off

Enjoying the sights and sounds of the City

Enjoying the sights and sounds of the City

Pittsburgh Marathon course map

Pittsburgh Marathon course map

It didn’t take us too long to get warmed up as we started the race. The water stations were frequent and plentiful. The best part of this course was that it took you pretty much around the City and it’s surrounding neighborhoods. The course kind of reminded me of how we got to see a lot of Baltimore when we ran the marathon there last October. We were passing through neighborhood after neighborhood but the neat thing about this course was that we were crossing back and forth over the river. The first half of the course crossed 5 bridges.

Bridge #1 - Rachel Carson Bridge

Bridge #1 – 16th Street Bridge

All the bridges had the same color scheme through the City. Very cool.

All the bridges had the same color scheme through the City. Very cool.

Bridge #2 - Rachel Carson Bridge

Bridge #2 – Rachel Carson Bridge

...and of course, the 'jump shot'

…and of course, the ‘jump shot’

I'm assuming we are crossing this one next!

I’m assuming we are crossing this one next!

We then headed over to our third bridge, the Andy Warhol Bridge.

Bridge #3 - Andy Warhol Bridge

Bridge #3 – Andy Warhol Bridge

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I was getting used to this view.

I was getting used to this view.

By mile 7 were were approaching our 4th bridge. As we were still running along the river we hadn’t experience much elevation save for the up and over the bridges. I knew that there were hills to come. We took it fairly easy, comfortable but making a good pace (averaging around a 10 min/mile pace). Running along the river were approached the ‘Duquesne Incline’ which gave us a bit of a hint as to how much hillier the second half of the course would be.

At the 'Incline'

At the ‘Duquesne Incline’

Go Pitt!

Go Pitt!

At mile 11 we hit the 5th and final bridge. This was by far the biggest bridge we had crossed so far and it was also at this point that the half and full marathons split off into their respective directions.

Bridge #5 - Birmingham Bridge

Bridge #5 – Birmingham Bridge

As we got across the bridge we were directed to the right which would lead us up an almost mile long incline up to Oakland and the University of Pittsburgh campus. We took it slowly up the hill and as we went steadily we were able to make it up to the top without having to stop beyond our normal Galloway run/walk breaks. My wife was getting excited to be running back to her old campus and seeing it from a new perspective.

I think using the shuttle may be considered cheating in a marathon

I think using the shuttle may be considered cheating in a marathon

Oooh...Primanti's...they make very good sandwiches (with the french fries inside the sandwich)

Oooh…Primanti’s…they make very good sandwiches (with the french fries inside the sandwich)

She was so happy to be back on Campus

She was so happy to be back on Campus

So of course there had to be another jump shot

So of course there had to be another jump shot

As we ran through the campus we made sure to stop and take some pictures and also make note of places to take the boys back later and show them.

With the Pittsburgh Panther

With the Pittsburgh Panther

Outside the Cathedral of Learning

Outside the Cathedral of Learning

Outside the Cathedral of Learning

Outside the Cathedral of Learning

We stopped outside the Cathedral of Learning. It is such an impressive building. We were lucky enough on our last visit to get a tour of the special nationality classrooms inside. Worth a visit for sure.

Once through Oakland we passed through lots of residential neighborhoods. There were many people who came out on the streets to cheer the runners on. The day was getting hotter and hotter as the hours progressed. Volunteers were handing out orange slices and many of the water stations were handing out wet cloths to keep runners cool. We were hydrating at every water station. Typically I rotate between a sports drink and water between each station but for this race as the temperature was rising I was taking both at each station.

Crowds came out to cheer on runners

Crowds came out to cheer on runners

Always look for fun signs. This was a good one.

Always look for fun signs. This was a good one.

As we approached mile 17 to 18, my wife started to feel uncomfortable with her knee. We took a few extra seconds each walk break but I could see she wasn’t comfortable. She had a similar issue at the Baltimore Marathon but that was much later in the race and when we ran the Walt Disney World Marathon earlier this year she had a great run with no pain. By mile 19 we had to head over to the medical tent where my wife was able to apply some icy/hot cream to the area (she usually carries a small tube but forgot this time) and she also took a couple of Tylenol. The medic marked her bib accordingly that she had taken something and made her take another drink before moving on.

We took it slow and steady. The goal now was just to finish. We were slowing down so not looking to get her a PR. We just had to finish. The good news that from mile 19 onwards it was pretty much all downhill towards the finish line. We did quite a bit of walking. We abandoned our usual run/walk schedule until she felt comfortable enough to continue and then just took the approach that we would run until a certain landmark, walk for a bit until we hit another landmark and then run again. That seemed to work and as we approached mile 25 I could see the determination on her face to finish. My back had begun to twinge when we stopped at the medical tent and I felt like I had stiffened up a little while we stayed there but once I started moving again I was able to deal with it.

Finally…and yes I do mean finally…we hit mile 25. I think that many of the problems we were experiencing may have been due to the heat. Despite drinking two cups at each water station by the time I hit mile 25 my shirt was bone dry. It was hot out there. Not humid, hot.

Finally we rounded the corner and saw the finish line. We ran the last half mile hand in hand and as we did so we ran past an announcer who was just ahead of the finish line. She called out our names over the loudspeaker as we crossed over. The sense of relief was great. I was feeling ok but my wife seemed more than pleased that it was over for now. Our time was 4:50. Even with all the stops and walking more than usual we were only a few minutes shy of my wife’s PR. At the end it wasn’t so bad after all.

We made it!

We made it!

Pleased to be done and despite the discomfort, totally happy with the race.

Pleased to be done and despite the discomfort, totally happy with the race.

Yeah...Marathon #5 in the books

Yeah…Marathon #5 in the books

...and Marathon #12 for me.

…and Marathon #12 for me.

After taking in some water and some food (thank you Panera Bread) we made our way over to the finishers village.

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Don’t forget the cookies…

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And that's why we run!!!

And that’s why we run!!!

Runners of Steel

Runners of Steel

5, yes 5!

Marathon #5, yes 5!

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Pleased with our day

We had a great time. We really enjoyed the course. The crowds were great and the support was all over the course. I would totally recommend this as a destination race if you are not from Pennsylvania. It was a well run event and although it was a hot day the volunteers were prepared to look after everyone on the course.

After making our way back to the hotel to relieve the babysitter (she says the kids were actually well behaved). We quickly showered and within the hour we were out and about for an afternoon of activities.

A quick shower and change, Looking happy and feeling much better.

A quick shower and change, Looking happy and feeling much better.

First stop, Station Square.

First stop, Station Square.

We took the boys to Station Square where we saw a fun little fountain show. It was hot and the boys loved getting just a little wet. From there we crossed over the street to the Duquesne Incline which we had run past earlier in the day.

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The Duquesne Incline

 

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View from the bottom looking up

Asher was a little uncertain

Asher was a little uncertain

Asher was a little uncertain…maybe because his older brother told him it was a thrill ride and that you would go up really slowly and then drop down the hill at speed. Think Walt Disney World’s ‘Tower of Terror’. Not very nice but his reaction was priceless.

View from the observation deck at the top.

View from the observation deck at the top.

We ran this town

We ran this town

My favorite running buddy

My favorite running buddy

Time to follow directions

Time to follow directions

It was earned and it was good

It was earned and it was good

After we went back down the incline (Asher wanted to ride it all day now) we headed over to the University Campus as we had dinner plans with another of my wife’s friends. We got there early and had time to look around the campus.

The future students outside the Cathedral of Learning

The future students outside the Cathedral of Learning

Apparently he's a big fan of Gene Kelly. Who knew?

Apparently he’s a big fan of Gene Kelly. Who knew?

We had a great meal with friends at a restaurant on campus which my wife had remembered. It had been a long day but we still managed to head over to another old favorite place of hers for ice cream. Yum.

I think I did enough for my ice cream.

I think I did enough for my ice cream.

Now that the race was over and we were both feeling a little better we could take advantage of being on vacation for the next day.

We caught up a little on sleep

We caught up a little on sleep

The next day we headed down to the campus again to pick up some University of Pittsburgh gear seeing as we hadn’t been able to get any souvenirs at the Expo before the race. We also visited around the campus and saw all the places my wife had lived when she studied there. She was really excited to show the boys around and also to investigate the newer areas of campus which hadn’t been around when she was there. It was a really enjoyable day and the boys seemed to be taking it all in and having fun.

Outside the basketball arena

Outside the basketball arena – the little guy is in there somewhere

After a long day in the sunshine we left Pittsburgh around 3pm to make the long drive home. Everyone agreed it had been a great trip and my wife and I agreed that it was worth it for the race itself. It was great to say that we are both ‘Runners of Steel’

🙂

April 2015 – Month in review

April 2015 – Nike+ Summary

April 2015 – Nike+ Summary

148 miles this month. Also a little late in posting but better late than never.

I think at this point we can all agree that spring finally arrived. There were a couple of days where I may have taken my run indoors to the treadmill but that is because I couldn’t get my head around pulling out my winter clothes again. It wasn’t going to happen. April…it’s spring enough for me.

April was the peak of the training for the Pittsburgh Marathon and the start of the taper. The race day is May 3rd so the plan is to get to that start line rested and healthy.

The month started with me signing up for early bird pricing for this year’s Philadelphia Marathon. This was my first marathon back in 2011 and is essentially my hometown marathon. I have done it every year except last year when I was in Florida at that time. I love the crowds and the course. If you haven’t ever run this race (the first have of the course is different from all the other half marathons that Philadelphia hosts and the second has great scenery) I highly recommend looking into it.

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With only a couple of weeks left until the Pittsburgh Marathon, and two of us in the house training for it, we had to do a bit of juggling to get our final long runs in without interfering with our weekends and our boys’ schedules. I ended up doing my last 20 miler on a weekday before heading to the office. Yup, up at 2:30am and out the door before 3am. Still managed to get the boys to school and be in the office on time. I will confess that I did drink an excessive amount of coffee that afternoon and I slept like a baby that night. Long run done. Bring on the taper.

Just a couple of days later I ran the Rutgers UNITE Half Marathon. It was perfect weather for running and my performance was really something I was proud of considering I’m coping with a slight injury. You can read my recap here and listen to the recap with my friend John on his podcast, the ‘Runner of a Certain Age‘.

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The next day was a time for recovery. After a 20 mile run and then a hard pushed half marathon I took a rest day from training. I also took a day off from work to volunteer to chaperone a school field trip for my son’s class to the Academy of Natural Sciences in Philadelphia. So, looking after four 8 years…totally relaxing!!!

Me, the boy and the T-rex

Me, the boy and the T-rex

I had another work trip to Atlanta during the month. The weather wasn’t looking great and it was hot and humid. There was a pretty big storm one day but it picked up in the afternoon and I couldn’t waste the opportunity to go out and run. I took a 5 mile run after work along the Chattahoochee River Trail. It was great. A perfect end to a busy day…plus earning a few extra calories never hurt.

Along the Chattachoochee River Trail

Along the Chattachoochee River Trail

After my little work trip to Atlanta I got the chance to bring my eldest son to work for our ‘Bring Your Kids To Work’ program. He had a great day and I was able to show him around the office. He managed to find a certain picture on display in the buildilng. Looks familiar don’t you think?

He fits in quite well

He fits in quite well

He recognized this Dopey fellow

He recognized this Dopey fellow

Towards the end of the month we finally had a free weekend. When I mean a free weekend I mean not totally overloaded. My wife encouraged me to go running in Tyler Park. I hadn’t run there in 10 months so I was really glad to get out in the sunshine. I wore my new INKnBURN ‘Run or Die‘ shirt and it felt cool and fit great. Truly a fun afternoon with no timetable. Perfect.

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A great end to a busy month. Lots to look forward to in May. WIth the Pittsburgh Marathon at the beginning of the month (we are making a mini-vacation out of the weekend with the boys) and my attempt to run ‘Goofy in a Day‘ for charity, it’s going to be quite an adventure.

Again, sorry for the delay in posting but life gets in the way sometimes…in a good way. I’m not complaining.

Thanks for reading.

 

2015 Rutgers UNITE Half Marathon – Race recap

newunitetm

It has been a very long winter and as a result I haven’t been able to get outside to run too much over the last few months. So with that in mind I was looking for a spring race to get me ready for the upcoming season and as a tune up for the Pittsburgh Marathon next month (May 3rd). I had a choice of running the Bucks County Half Marathon in Tyler Park which I have run 3 times already or try for something new. As I listen to my friend John’s ‘The Runner Of A Certain Age‘ podcast (as well as being a guest now and again) I decided based upon his review from the prior year to sign up for the Rutgers UNITE Half Marathon.

2015 Rutgers UNITE Half Marathon Course

2015 Rutgers UNITE Half Marathon Course

The Rutgers UNITE Half Marathon is put on by the CGI Racing team and they are responsible for other races such as the LOVE Run Half Marathon which I ran last year and also the New Jersey State Triathlon which I signed up for this year (my first triathlon) and I’ve had a good experience with this organization in the past.

So, before we start, I have to confess that I messed up a little with the planning. I know that locally Rutgers has a campus in Camden, NJ which is not too far away and is an area where I have run races before (Benjamin Franklin Bridge 10K) and we live not to far away from Rider University. For some reason in my mind I thought I would be running locally. Not so much. The main Rutgers University Campus is up in Piscataway, NJ which is over 45 miles away and a good hours drive. Hmmm….

Once I figured out that I realized my mistake in not signing up for race day packet pickup. I had to travel up to Piscataway the day before and on the day of the race. I probably spent more on gas and tolls than the cost of the race day packet pickup. Now before you think I’m completely crazy my experience of race day packet pick up is fine if I was to run a 5K or 10K but I don’t want to feel rushed before a half or a full marathon. In fact, based upon my experience with the LOVE Run marathon from CGI the year before it was a big race and I didn’t fancy the idea of fighting the crowds. Also, the race guide talked about parking at the starting area or the finish area and shuttling to and from. I didn’t want to deal with that on top of this all.

On the day before the race I got up early to be at the race expo as it opened so I could get back home and not be too disruptive to our planned family activities. I didn’t know at the time that it was Rutgers Open House weekend. The weather was beautiful and it was an easy drive for the most part. It took me under an hour to get to the campus but once upon arriving it took me almost 20 minutes to get into the parking area for packet pickup.

Finally made it to the expo

Finally made it to the expo

The packet pickup was at the Sonny Werblin Recreation Center. It was a busy morning there. There were swim meets going on, there were other sports being played so there was a quite the foot traffic inside. The expo however was well signed and separate from all the general hubbub outside.

The expo itself was held inside a large gymnasium. It wasn’t huge but it was set up clearly. As you entered there was a small area for a speaker series and next to that a desk to look up your race number if you didn’t already have it with you. Then at the far end of the hall was the bib pick up and next to that the shirt pick up.

Expo set up

Expo set up

Bib and t-shirt pick up

Bib and t-shirt pick up

Race mugs

Race mugs

There weren’t too many vendors displaying. The National Running Center was there for any last-minute purchases as well as a local therapy provider giving back massages. Also, one of the sponsors (Agua Enerviva) and a local fitness equipment dealer. They also had a table to pick up your souvenir mug. This is quite a nice perk and something I also received when I ran the LOVE Run last year.

I got what I came for

I got what I came for

Ready for the next day's activities

Ready for the next day’s activities

In hindsight this would have been an ideal race for same day packet pick up. I would highly recommend this option if you are going to sign up for this event. The race itself isn’t small but it isn’t a huge field and there is ample parking at the start line area which is right next to the start line. Also, I met up with John at packet pickup and it was calm and orderly and well run.

Race day arrival

Race day arrival

Race day arrival

Race day arrival

Race day arrival was very easy. The drive, the parking on campus and the whole traffic flow was a breeze. I arrived with plenty of time before the start of the race to stretch, use the port-a-potties and loosen up. I headed down to the packet pick up area to meet John before the start of the race. I always like to meet up with people I know before a race as just chatting with and hanging out with people helps calm the nerves and just generally lifts my spirits before a race.

Meeting up with John (host of 'The Runner Of A Certain Age' podcast)

Meeting up with John (host of ‘The Runner Of A Certain Age’ podcast)

It was a little chilly at the start but I knew it was going to warm up based on the forecast. The sky was clear and the sun was out. I pulled a mylar blanket out of my check bag to wear while waiting in the corral with a plan to throw it out just before crossing the start line (TIP – if you have mylar blankets handed to you at a race keep them for future races so you can stay warm in the corral of another race).

I walked to the corrals with John and we noted that the corrals were set up by pace per mile not any designated letter. I left John at his prefered pace and I moved up towards the 8:00-9:00 pace area. I didn’t notice any side entrances for the corrals so I had to move slowly through the crowd (politely I may add) to get to where I was going. Once there I settled in and waited for the National Anthem and the starting signal. The start was about 5 minutes delayed but the crowd seemed to be cheery enough. After all, this was some of the best weather we had experienced here in a long time!!!

Foiled up and ready to run

Foiled up and ready to run

My goal for this race was to see what I had in me after a long winter of running indoors. I recently have been struggling with injury. I tweaked my back and pelvis shovelling snow during the last couple of snow storms we had. As a result of the injury I had taken a full week off from running. If you know me that is a big deal. I was also on antibiotics for chest infection and back on Ventolin for my asthma (for the first time in three years). Also, with the upcoming Pittsburgh Marathon I wanted to try out some gear in race conditions. I have recently been experimenting with Injinji running socks and although I had already run some longer distances in them I was playing around with the thickness options they have (original weight vs medium weight). My goal therefore was to see if I could comfortably be under 2 hours. With a time goal in mind I didn’t get a chance to take too many pictures on route.

The course itself takes you around the Livingston Campus and Busch Campus for the first 9 miles before you cross over the bridge to Johnson Park and then finally through to the finish along College Avenue. It is not flat and fast as was advertised as there were a number of turns involved on the course and some gently rolling hills but nothing that would lend me to say this was a hilly course.

There were plenty of water stations on the course but very sparse spectators, although it should be remarked that this was very early on a Sunday morning on a college campus so I cannot imagine how many students would really be up early. The weather was fantastic and really made for a relaxing run. It actually felt like I was out for a simple weekend long run. The race wasn’t too large so as a runner you had plenty of space to move around and although the streets were a little narrow in places you never felt jammed in.

The first few miles ticked away and everyone just set into their own pace. I had started out with the 9:00 minute pace group but soon passed their leader and headed out for my own race.

Having never been to college here it was nice to see the campus. I was impressed by the amount of space that there was and that the campus looked pretty well looked after. The roads were a little cut up but I think that was a result of the harsh winter we had and the toll it took on the roadways. You had to be a little careful with footing in some places.

Around mile 7-8 we started heading back towards the start line area and in fact headed back up the starting chute for the second part of the race. It was around here that we started experiencing the first of many of the turn arounds. I hadn’t really studied the course map too much and you can never really tell the detail from a picture but from mile 9 onwards there were four hairpin turnarounds. I’m not usually a big fan of turnarounds but based upon the need to squeeze 13 miles into their campus I understand what needs to be done.

I settled into a pretty good rhythm and was really enjoying the scenery of the campus and also the park when we crossed over the bridge. Once we entered into the park we stayed along the pathway and ran from one hairpin turnaround to the other. That was probably the least enjoyable part (but still enjoyable race) and we saw a few more spectators on that side of the course as other people were getting along with their own activities in the park at that time of the morning.

Heading towards mile 12 all I could see ahead of me was a hill. Uh oh I thought. I was just beginning to feel a little tired at that point. Before the hill however we had to turn right into Buccleuch Park for what turned out to be the final turnaround of the race. At least this wasn’t a hairpin as we got to run around a little gazebo.

Buccleuch Park Gazebo

Buccleuch Park Gazebo

Once out of the park we had to tackle that hill I had seen confronting us as we entered. To my surprise it had just been a trick of the eye. Yes, there was a an uphill to run but it was short and not as steep as it looked and once you hit the crown you could see pretty much all the way down College Avenue to the finish line.

The run down College Avenue was so nice. It is a natural chute funneling you to the finish. Crowds were lined on both sides of the street and they were cheering you along. The downhill wasn’t to steep and allowed you to just glide through the finish. I felt great at that point. I was running around 8:33 pace which was the best I had achieved in a while and I felt comfortable doing it. I crossed the finish line with a time of 1:53:49. Well under two hours and within a couple of minutes of my half marathon PR. I was very pleased with the result.

I crossed the finish line and received my medal and also was handed a bottle of water. It had warmed up quite a bit at this point. Not too hot but was just a beautiful day.

Feeling great at the finish

Feeling great at the finish

By the way, my choice of outfit was my new INKnBURN Flow shirt. I think it was a perfect choice and very comfortable for the conditions. This has become my favorite shirt recently. I had been trying to decide between this shirt and my Mickey Milers shirt (as I was meeting up with fellow Miler John) but went with this combo. The socks worked out great too. I would recommend trying a pair if you get the chance. A little weird to look at and to put on but if you are prone to blisters these offer great protection.

After coming through the finish line chute we turned left to the post race area. The campus was ideal for a post race area as the streets were wide, the crowds were separated to the family reunion area and there was a lot of green space to stretch out and relax.

Post race area

Post race area – nice and open space

Post race area

Post race area – a great place to chill

The food tent was labeled clearly for runners only and they checked your bib to go through. I was very grateful for the soft pretzel. What I didn’t see was any sports drink to replenish any lost electrolytes. That was probably my only complaint.

Food station marked for runners

Food station marked for runners

Very ordered food hand out

Very ordered food hand out

One of the best post race treats

One of the best post race treats

The medal was a decent size but a little ‘lightweight’ and a little plain. Also, on the medal and on the ribbon it said ‘Half Marathon and 8K’. I wasn’t sure if this was the same medal handed to people who ran the 8K also. That seemed a little strange that these wouldn’t be unique to the race.

With my medal

With my medal

Front of the medal

Front of the medal

Back of the medal

Back of the medal

Note the ribbon says Half Marathon and 8K

Note the ribbon says Half Marathon and 8K

Overall though I would totally recommend this race. Timing was perfect, we lucked out with the weather, the course was enjoyable and the size of the field made it feel like a big race without being a big race (i.e. plenty of room to move about). I would recommend that if you register for this race (and you should if you are nearby) you opt for race day packet pick up as the expo wasn’t a compelling reason to go twice in two days.

John and I spoke about this race on his podcast. Here is the link to the episode (Episode 35 – It’s A Beautiful Morning Edition’).

Thanks for reading.

January 2015 – Month in review

January 2015 – Nike+ Summary

January 2015 – Nike+ Summary

A little late in posting but getting this done before the following month is over so technically I am still okay, right?

My training shows I ran just over 150 miles for January. This included running 39.3 miles as part of the 2015 Goofy Challenge. You can read my recaps for the Expo, Half and Full by clicking on the links. It was a fun weekend and one that my wife and I had been training for and that we also made time for a family trip which made the experience much more enjoyable.

The rain had stopped an park had emptied and I managet to get one last photo in before we left.

I certainly made the most of this as there were a couple of milestones for me. It was my third year running for Team Up with Autism Speaks and it brought my fund raising total over $11,000 for this cause. Also, this might be our last runDisney race for a while. Logisitics wise it is hard with both boys in school to take the time to do this. Also, I think I need to give my generous donors a small break from fundraising. Finally, I’m hoping to find a way to do one of the Disneyland races and that will take a while to build up some funds as I want to take the whole family to the West Coast.

Mind you, I say that now and you know I’ll be trying to find a way to get back there sooner. I just love the runDisney races plus it’s great to be a Mickey Miler. I’m already trying to figure out a way to participate somehow in the upcoming ‘Small World Challenge‘ to help raise funds for the ‘Give Kids The World‘ Village. I’ll keep you updated when my plans are final 🙂

With the temperatures being what they are here I’ve had very little opportunity to run outside and so I’ve been taking some time to catch up on my podcast backlog while running many miles on the treadmill. Not that I mind too much as it gives me the chance to wear my INKnBURN shirts during the winter months. Hey, I like to look good when I run (it distracts from the facial expressions that I probably make). Here’s my new shirt from their new 2015 catalogue.

Men's Long Sleeve 'Run or Die' striped shirt

Men’s Long Sleeve ‘Run or Die’ striped tech shirt

So, after completing the Goofy Challenge my wife and I are straight into our Pittsburgh Marathon training. I’m also looking for some potential other long races (yes, let’s say marathon distances) in addition to waiting for the Marine Corps Marathon lottery to open in March. We shall see. It’s been a good start to the year.

2015 Walt Disney World Marathon Weekend – Part 1 – Expo January 9, 2015

Walt Disney World Marathon Weekend 2015

Walt Disney World Marathon Weekend 2015

So the weekend finally arrived. All the training was done, all the fundraising was done, all the packing was done. We had our advance dining reservations (actually done way back within the 180 day window in July!!) and all our Fast Pass+ reservations were booked. We were all set.

This year my wife and I were running the Goofy Challenge (39.3 miles over two days) for Autism Speaks. Last year I ran the Dopey Challenge (48.6 miles over fours) but wised up and ‘only’ signed up for the Goofy. Actually the big difference was that we were able to travel down as a family this year. The first couple of days of the week I was following my friends who were running the Dopey Challenge and were already down in Orlando. I was getting antsy.

Thursday evening finally rolled around and we set off from the Philadelphia airport on time. I think I was more excited than my boys about going to Walt Disney World (as always). We were traveling down with my sister-in-law and her husband who were running the half marathon this year.

On board our flight and ready to go.

On board our flight and ready to go.

Okay, so maybe my youngest looks a little more excited.

After settling into our hotel and getting a few hours sleep (more than we would be for the next two days) we got up early and headed over to the race expo. I was planning to wear the charity gear for the half marathon and our ‘costumes’ for the full marathon so I wore my ‘Mickey Milers‘ shirt to attend the expo. I also had my Mickey Milers button on my jacket so I could meet or catch up with fellow team mates.

The expo was held as in prior years at the ESPN Wild World of Sports. The bib pick up was in the HP Field House. The Goofy and Dopey bib pick up was upstairs while the half marathon and full marathon were downstairs.

Arriving at the Expo

Arriving at the Expo

Not too busy at pick up

Not too busy at pick up

Here we are

Here we are

Very excited to have this in my hands again

Very excited to have this in my hands again

While picking up the bibs we were handed our race shirts. I actually selected a smaller size this year at registration and that worked out well. The race shirts were really nice. The Goofy shirt would be useful in case of being stranded on an island…it was BRIGHT orange. I like the changes that they made to the race shirts last year and they kept them for this year too. Very nice and soft to the touch.

Trying on the Goofy shirt for size

Trying on the Goofy shirt for size

While we were there we bumped in my friend and fellow INKnBURN Ambassador Jill who started talking to my wife about the special runDisney shoes. Hmmm…

There was a little merchandise in the Field House but I don’t recall that it was open at the time we arrived so we rejoined my sister-in-law and her husband and headed over to the Jostens Center for the main expo. There were also some stand alone booths outside near the stadium but it was cool outside (it had been raining) and we knew most of the stuff we wanted would be inside.

One thing that was different this year was the new rule that anyone running one of the runDisney challenges during the weekend (Goofy and Dopey) had to have their picture taken with their bib. This was to replace the wristband system that was in place last year to prove that you have completed each race.

They're watching your every move!!!

They’re watching your every move!!!

As we entered we put into effect our plan to keep the boys occupied so we could all browse the expo. My wife and I use our old iPhones as iPods for our boys and so they have some games/apps/movies to keep them occupied. We chose a corner of the expo where they could see us and where we could see them. Everyone was happy.

The expo was set up like previous years and we hit the official runDisney merchandise section. It was set out in aisles by races with each race having some unique merchandise vs other races (e.g. jackets vs fleeces). After grabbing our car magnets we looked around for a while. We didn’t do too much damage this year. How much can you really buy these days having done these races for the last few years. Not much other than the year and color changes on some products. Still, some nice stuff. The character hats were unique though but not really runDisney as we did say some for sale in the parks later. I did notice that the ‘I Did It’ shirts were cotton this year and not the tech like last year. I had planned on purchasing one of those but skipped as a result.

Expo was spaciously laid out and not too crowded

Expo was spaciously laid out and not too crowded

Did most of our shopping down this aisle

Did most of our shopping down this aisle

Checked out some of the merchandise for the marathon down this aisle

Checked out some of the merchandise for the marathon down this aisle

The Mickey hats were fun. They also had Donald and Goofy variants.

The Mickey hats were fun. They also had Donald and Goofy variants.

The 'I Did It' shirts area

The ‘I Did It’ shirts area

Check out was quick and easy. We didn’t spend too much time there as we wanted to have a quick walk through the expo and we had Fast Passes waiting for us at EPCOT.

We did stop by to say hello and meet up with Jeff Galloway. Without Jeff’s training methods both Shari and I wouldn’t be multiple marathoners. We got a chance to have a quick chat with him. He is so approachable and encouraging.

Meeting Olympian and runDisney training consultant Jeff Galloway

Meeting Olympian and runDisney training consultant Jeff Galloway

A quick family stop at the expo for some Goofy fun

A quick family stop at the expo for some Goofy fun

Walking around the expo we saw the regular attendees. We didn’t go there needing anything so planned to walk around and see if there would be something unique. There were a few nice runDisney specific shirts at the Champion booth but there weren’t any left in my size by the time we got there. My wife however picked up a few ‘Sweaty Bands‘ including her runDisney branded band and I picked up a pair of arm sleeves by 2XU. My wife was intrigued by the runDisney shoes following our conversation with Jill earlier. While the New Balance runDisney process for getting these shoes includes pre-registering for an appointment (which we didn’t do) my wife is, how do I say it, umm…on the smaller size. Jill and Shari were of a similar height and Jill told her that she might be able to fit into the youth sizes for which there was no pre-sign up required. We headed over and before you knew it I was shelling out for some of the pink polka dot Minnie Mouse shoes (from the 2014 range).

runDisney Minnie Mouse shoes

runDisney Minnie Mouse shoes

Very happy with our purchase

Very happy with our purchase

Wearing the shoes later...with added charms

Wearing the shoes later…with added charms

They also had on display the new ‘retro’ “Steamboat Willie” 2015 runDisney shoes. They didn’t really do much for me and for the price of $185 they were a bit of a surprise compared to the 2014 colorful ones.

The 2015 runDisney New Balance shoes

The 2015 runDisney New Balance shoes

They were still selling the 2014 New Balance runDisney editions

They were still selling the 2014 New Balance runDisney editions

As I was waiting for everyone to wrap up their time at the expo I bumped into and said a quick hello to Runner’s World Chief Running Officer Bart Yasso.

A quick hello with Bart Yasso

A quick hello with Bart Yasso

So having left the expo we headed over to EPCOT. We planned to spend the day there as the team dinner for Team Up – Autism Speaks was planned for that evening at the Living Seas Pavillion. It had been raining when we arrived at the expo but had dried up but it was far from warm. My wife was already wearing her Goofy race jersey (I gave her the stink eye because I’m in the ‘don’t wear your race shirt before or during the race’ camp). As you can see, it was a little cold (ok…we may be exaggerating a little!)

As you can see we were a little bit cold....brrrrr...

As you can see we were a little bit cold….brrrrr…

After some time in the front of the park (yeah for Soarin’) and a quick trip around World Showcase with the boys we were all set to meet up with everyone for the dinner at the Team Up dinner. I did make a small purchase in the American Pavilion. My wife is a big fan of the Alex and Ani bracelets and they have a Disney line (of which I’ve already invested quite a bit). In the store they had a ‘Goofy’ charm which I bought as another keepsake to celebrate her ‘first’ Goofy Challenge.

Not to be worn until Sunday after finishing the marathon

Not to be worn until Sunday after finishing the marathon

We met up with everyone outside the Living Seas Pavilion at the front of the park before heading into the ‘Living Seas Salon’ banquet suite on the other side of aquarium. I had changed into my One More Mile custom Goofy shirt that I had made up for my first Goofy when I ran for Team Up back in 2013.

My special Goofy shirt

My special Goofy shirt

Custom T - back

Custom T – back

Dinner was hosted by Phillip, the National Director for Team Up and was a nice pasta buffet and dessert dinner. I think there were about 80 runners for this years team and at the date of the dinner we had raised over $163,000 for this event. While at the dinner there were a number of speakers sharing the stories of why they run for Autism Speaks. Some of the stories were amazing. Very inspiring evening. While the speakers were talking our boys were off in a corner making signs for us for the next day and generally enjoying the views of the aquarium.

2015 Team Up Autism Speaks team dinner

2015 Team Up Autism Speaks team dinner

2015 Team Up Autism Speaks team dinner

2015 Team Up Autism Speaks team dinner

2015 Team Up Autism Speaks team dinner

2015 Team Up Autism Speaks team dinner

2015 Team Up Autism Speaks team dinner

2015 Team Up Autism Speaks team dinner

2015 Team Up Autism Speaks team dinner

2015 Team Up Autism Speaks team dinner

IMG_9777

2015 Team Up Autism Speaks team dinner

2015 Team Up Autism Speaks team dinner

2015 Team Up Autism Speaks team dinner

After dinner it was a quick ride on Spaceship Earth, Illuminations fireworks and then heading back to our hotel for the first early wake up call (2:00am) for the half marathon.

2014 – Looking back and forward

2014 was quite a year. The highlights included running 4 Full Marathons (including a new PR), 4 Half Marathons and running over 2,000 miles (unplanned). I completed my 10th Full Marathon in Baltimore this year (running with my Wife) and raised over $4,000 for charity (Autism Speaks).

December 2014 – Nike+ Summary

This month I ran a total of 211 miles. That is the most mileage I have ever run in one single month. It was a combination of getting my training done for the upcoming 2015 Walt Disney World Goofy Challenge, business travel (where I had a little more time to run but I ate a lot more) and the realization mid December that I was actually close to 2,000 annual miles. With all that said I added a couple of extra miles here and there and a couple of extra runs over the course of the month and finished December with 211 miles and bringing my 2014 total mileage to 2,005 miles. Not sure I will be repeating this pattern too many times but it’s quite an achievement for me.

2014 – Nike+ Summary

2014 – Nike+ summary by month

There were many highlights of the year for me, starting back in January with running the inaugural Walt Disney World ‘Dopey Challenge‘. Four races in four days for a total of 48.6 miles. It was so much fun. Not sure I would rush to do it again though based upon the cost and logistics involved it ended up being a solo trip for me, however, I did make many friends that weekend and met up with lots of familiar faces too. I also attended the Mickey Miles Podcast breakfast after the 5K and was there for the launch of the Mickey Milers running team. The team raises funds for the Give Kids The World charity village in Orlando Florida. We are all over the country (and international too) but we interact regularly and meet up at races and I’ve even met up with members on business trips and on vacation. We are very identifiable by our yellow and purple team shirts and hats. It’s a great group and a great cause.

Running the 2014 Dopey Challenge at Walt Disney World

Running the 2014 Dopey Challenge at Walt Disney World

Mickey Milers Running Team

Mickey Milers Running Team

Post-race with the Mickey Milers (Janee, Brittany and Joe)

Post-race with the Mickey Milers (Janee, Brittany and Joe)

My other endeavors for charity are again for Autism Speaks and as of December 31, 2014 my wife and I raised over $4,000 and will be running the 2015 Walt Disney World ‘Goofy Challenge‘ in just a few days. My goal is to make my miles mean something for more than just my fitness and raising funds for charity is a way that I can do so.

Autism Speaks

In terms of racing I achieved a PR at the New Jersey Marathon at the end of April a year after my meltdown at the same race. It was a pretty tough winter here in the north east and I did much of my training indoors at the gym. I learned to cope for multiple hours on a treadmill but it was great when spring finally arrived. Conditions on the day of the marathon were tough and windy but I achieved what I set out to do (even though it was just by a few seconds). I was happy. A few days after the marathon I had a small medical scare but thankfully all turned out for the best.

New Jersey Marathon - New PR and a pretty cool medal

New Jersey Marathon – New PR and a pretty cool medal

My wife and I took part in a few races together this year, the Hot Chocolate 15K in Philadelphia, the Philadelphia Rock and Roll Half Marathon in August and the Baltimore Marathon in October. Great fun at each race and she also achieved a PR at Baltimore. Great race, great weekend.

Philadelphia Hot Chocolate 15K

Philadelphia Hot Chocolate 15K

With my Wife and Father-in-law at the Rock and Roll Half Marathon

With my Wife and Father-in-law at the Rock and Roll Half

2014 Baltimore Marathon

2014 Baltimore Marathon (my 10th Marathon)

 

I was also selected as an INKnBURN ambassador during the year and had lots of fun wearing some colorful and artistic outfits at races. I have lots of options now to run in. I have the INB shirts, my Mickey Milers team shirt and my Autism Speaks team gear for the Disney races. I think I don’t need to buy any gear for a while (this is not a New Year’s resolution so don’t hold me to that).

INKnBURN Ambassador

Another PR this year was achieved at the Bucks County Duathlon. I was unable to participate in 2013 due to a family wedding but this year I came back and beat my previous PR by 5 minutes. I had a bit of a struggle at the ‘Chasing the Unicorn’ Marathon in August but the highlight of that day was running across the finish line with my family. That made anything else unimportant and I was happier than my performance really reflected as a result.

A good day for a PR as I headed home.

A good day for a PR

My best ever finish.

My best ever finish.

So what does 2015 have in store to improve upon 2014? I’m not sure yet but plenty of things already lined up to look forward to.

In a few days my wife and I will be running the 2015 Goofy Challenge down at Walt Disney World. It is the 10th anniversary of that particular event and the medal looks quite cool. Most of all I’m looking forward to having my family with me at Walt Disney World this year and having a mini vacation with them. My wife and I are also signed up for the Pittsburgh Marathon in May and we are again doing a little family road trip with the boys. It should be a lot of fun. I’m also signed up for my very first ‘triathlon‘…we shall see 🙂

2015 10th Anniversary Goofy Challenge medal

2015 10th Anniversary Goofy Challenge medal

Thanks for sticking with me for another year. I appreciate all your ‘likes’ and kind comments and look forward to seeing you at events and hearing on your success too. Wishing you all a very happy and prosperous 2015.

With my wife enjoying the Baltimore Marathon. Good times.

With my wife enjoying the Baltimore Marathon. Good times.

 

2014 Baltimore Marathon race recap

Baltimore Running Festival 2014

Baltimore Running Festival 2014

It’s a hill…get over it.

Last weekend my wife and I ran the Baltimore Marathon (one of the events of the Baltimore Running Festival). It was my wife’s 3rd full marathon and my 10th (I cannot believe I just said that). It was a great weekend and even before I go into the race recap I will say that I would have to recommend the race to anyone looking for a Fall marathon.

The reason we chose to run this marathon is that we had originally hoped to run the Philadelphia Marathon again but had a family wedding leading up to the date and would be out of town on marathon weekend. We looked around to see other races which were within driving distance around the same date and we considered Hartford and Atlantic City as these didn’t have lotteries like New York City, Chicago and Marine Corps, and ultimately decided on Baltimore. This was definitely a good choice for us.

I have to say a word about the race directors from Corrigan Sports. They did a great job at communicating with the runners before, during and after the event. Their enthusiasm for this event really shows and it made for a smooth and memorable experience.

There were a couple of minor bumps in the road before race day. First, I called our hotel, the Days Inn Inner Harbor Baltimore, on the Tuesday before the weekend just to check on the reservation and to request a late checkout so we would have time to get back and shower after the race. This was a partner hotel and very close to the start/finish line. I didn’t think that would be too much of a problem, however, the lady who I spoke to said that the hotel didn’t offer any late checkout and that we had to be out of our room by 11am. What?!?!?

My reservation said 12pm but she said adamantly that we would have to be out by 11am. Now, if you haven’t noticed yet, my wife and I are not elite Kenyan athletes. Even with the start of the race being moved back by 1 hour to 7am (this was announced earlier in the week in the event that the Baltimore Orioles would still be in the post season) there was no way even with a PR that we would be back at the hotel by 11am.  I spent the next couple of hours frantically trying to call around other hotels to see what I could do. No options other than spending $500 for an extra night at the Marriott. We had planned to sleep in Baltimore on Friday and come home after the race so our boys would only be out with my in-laws one night. Hmm…we needed to figure something out or we would be achy and stinky on the drive home. This is where my wife came to the rescue. I will explain later (I have to give some suspense to this blog post otherwise it is just me writing endlessly).

The second bump in the road was that both my wife and I (my wife more than me) started to suffer some really bad cold symptoms in the days leading up to the race. We both ended up calling into the doctor for a prescription the day before we headed out so that we could get some meds in us prior to race day. Thankfully they were quick acting although we were pretty much knocked out early in the evenings and so managed to catch up on a little sleep prior to race day.

We dropped our boys off at school on Friday morning and headed to Baltimore. It took about 2.5 hours and was a fairly easy drive (with the exception of the extra 10 miles when I missed the exit). Once in Baltimore it was fairly easy to find our hotel and park. The Baltimore Convention Center was opposite the hotel and so we checked in, freshened up and headed over to the Expo to pick up our bibs, race shirts and spend money (the last thing being optional but inevitable).

Arriving at the Expo

Arriving at the Expo

We got in line for our bibs before entering the main hall. Our numbers were 2390 and 2391 and we lined up to get our bibs from none other than Sid Busch (the human mascot for the BRF and all round great guy). It was nice to see Sid again. We had first met him back during the 2013 Walt Disney World Family 5K and I had met up with him for lunch back in January of this year. This was to be his 196 marathon. Sid runs in memory of fallen soldiers carrying their pictures on the back of his race shirt and he carries the Stars and Stripes with him the full length of the course. Like I said, great guy.

Sid Busch - one of the two race mascots

Sid Busch – one of the two race mascots

Once we got our bibs we headed into the expo to get our race shirts. Baltimore is the home city of Under Armor who also provided the official race apparel. I only have one piece of Under Armor gear (a compression under shirt that I wear on cold days to run) so wasn’t too familiar with their stuff although I knew the brand. I have to say that the race shirt was really nice. They didn’t skimp on the quality of any of the race apparel. When I signed up I had requested a men’s large shirt. When I tried this in it looked a little loose and baggy and I was wondering if they would let me exchange. One of the volunteers pointed me to an official exchange station. I thought this was quite a clever idea. I got to go over and try on the other sizes and exchange my shirt for a medium means still sealed in the bag. Nice.

Entering the expo

Entering the expo

Shirt pickup

Shirt pickup

A dedicated shirt exchange area

A dedicated shirt exchange area

The expo wasn’t too big and my wife and I went through quite quickly. Nothing really different stood out that we hadn’t seen in recent expos. It was much smaller than the recent Rock ‘n’ Roll expo we had attended in Philadelphia last month. The biggest presence by far was the Under Armour area. Hey, they were on home turf so I guess they got the biggest share.

Under Armour were the official race gear providers

Under Armour were the official race gear providers

A nice range of gear for all races during the weekend

A nice range of gear for all races during the weekend

The expo wasn't overly big

The expo wasn’t overly big

Under Armour had a decent size area set aside

Under Armour had a decent size area set aside

Under Armour had a decent size area set aside

Under Armour had a decent size area set aside

Under Armour had a decent size area set aside

Under Armour had a decent size area set aside

Heading out of the expo - the escalator wasn't working... a perfect stair workout before the marathon!!!

Heading out of the expo – the escalator wasn’t working… a perfect stair workout before the marathon!!!

With the expo over we dropped off our bags of swag back in the hotel room and set out to explore a little of the Inner Harbor area. We have visited Baltimore as a family a couple of times but without the boys in tow we could walk around and take our time. We eventually made our way across to the Little Italy area as we had an early dinner reservation. They have done a nice rehab on the area by the water and we stopped to look in a couple of the stores (Lululemon for my wife and I stopped to look in the Under Armour store). We didn’t know that we would be running by this area the next day. Frankly I hadn’t really studied the course map too much as I didn’t really know the city layout too well. I should have taken more attention of the cobblestones along the streets (more on that later) but at the time I was sticking to the pavement.

Enjoying some free time around the Inner Harbor area

Enjoying some free time around the Inner Harbor area

Surprisingly I didn't find anything to buy

Surprisingly I didn’t find anything to buy

We had a great dinner at Amicci’s in Little Italy. I am glad we had a reservation as the place was packed. People were lining up in the street outside but the time we left. It seemed to be a very popular restaurant for some of the visiting marathoners. My wife had found this by doing some on line research but coincidentally it was also recommended by people we know who used to live in the Baltimore area.

Amicci's - Little Italy

Amicci’s – Little Italy

Amicci's was a great find for our pre-race dinner

Amicci’s was a great find for our pre-race dinner

After dinner we took a leisurely walk back towards our hotel and as we were close by we decided to take a walk down to the starting line area. It was fairly early and the roads were still open so the start line had not yet been set up. We did look in the direction of where we would be running in the morning. Yup, it was definitely uphill. We headed back to our room, set out our gear and got an early night (no kids so we managed an 8pm bedtime) and waited for the alarm to go off the next day. I must say that I slept really well the night before the race which is quite unusual for me.

Where the start line would be in a few hours

Where the start line would be in a few hours

We would be running up that hill in about 12 hours time

We would be running up that hill soon

I set up my gear the night before and chose to run in my INKnBURN ‘Ganesha’ t-shirt. Ganesha is considered to be a remover of obstacles. Quite appropriate for one about to run a marathon.

'Flat Ian' and my 'Ganesha' INKnBURN shirt

‘Flat Ian’ and my ‘Ganesha’ INKnBURN shirt and ‘Current’ INKnBURN arm sleeves

The alarm went off bright and early. As we had to check out the hotel by 11am I decided to head down to the car around 5:45am with our packed bags while my wife waited for me in the lobby. We then headed down towards the starting line area and the bag check. At the last minute both my wife and I decided to take off the arm sleeves we had been wearing. That was a good idea as it was fairly mild at that time and did look to be warming up later.

Dressed up and ready to 'check out'!

Dressed up and ready to ‘check out’

Walking through Camden Yards (Orioles Park) was really cool. I had never been here before. It did look like we were walking through part of a film set at times. It seemed very different than I had expected for a ball park. We checked our bags and headed to the start line after a brief port-a-potty stop and time to stretch. We were not assigned corrals (there weren’t any) but there were signs set up based upon pace per mile. We slotted ourselves into a 10 minute per mile group and next to the 4:45 pace group. We figured that was pretty reasonable. Neither of us was planning to race this as we wanted to get to the finish line healthy and able to start our training for the Goofy Challenge the following week.

This seemed too easy...oh yes, we had to run a long way to get back here

This seemed too easy…oh right… we had to run a long way to get back here

Bags checked and ready to head to the start line

Bags checked and ready to head to the start line

Preview of the finish line we would be crossing in a few hours

Preview of the finish line we would be crossing in a few hours

Yup...this is us

Yup…this is us

Staying warm before the start. Those old mylar race blankets come in useful.

Staying warm before the start. Those old mylar race blankets come in useful

We listened to the introductions prior to the race and as we listened to the National Anthem we were taken by surprise when all the locals yelled “O” when the line “O say does that star-spangled banner yet wave” which apparently as an Orioles fan thing. We jumped a little but it was funny as we had no clue to expect it. With the National Anthem sung, the wheelchair racers were set off and then a few minutes later the horn declared the start of the marathon. We gave each other a good luck kiss (that is my wife and I…no-one else was involved) and headed towards the start line which was under an arch of red, white and blue balloons streaming with confetti and headed out.

Waiting for the signal to start

Waiting for the signal to start

Our view from the 10 minute/mile group

Our view from the 10 minute/mile group

Here we go

Here we go

The first stretch of the race was uphill (the first three miles) which I had expected as we ran up to Druid Hill Park and the Baltimore Zoo. I had at least read the first part of the course description. The first mile or two was a little crowded but not too much that we didn’t have enough space to move about. We ran through a couple of neighborhoods until we made the turn into Druid Hill Park. Well, the ‘Hill’ in the name was a clue. You can see from the elevation chart that those first 3 miles were all uphill.  We were using run/walk breaks of 4:15/0:45 coupled with the first 3 uphill miles and my wife commented that this stopped us going out too fast and the walk breaks definitely helped pace us up the hills.

Coming up on mile 3

Coming up on mile 3

We have arrived

We have arrived

Once we entered the park we made it into the Baltimore Zoo. They had some of the zoo keeping staff out with various animals, birds, etc. We ran past a raven (this was Baltimore obviously), an American kestrel, a cuckoo bird (I think) and we managed to get a picture with one of the penguins outside the new penguin exhibit. Pretty cool and my boys were impressed with that.

Nice tux

Nice tux

Once through the park we ran down towards the city and Johns Hopkins University and past the local hospitals. Around mile 5.5 we passed the Dunkin Donuts ‘Munchkin Mile’ where volunteers were holding out large boxes full of ‘Munchkins’. If you know me I’m very much a ‘by the book’ guy and if common sense says don’t try any new foods on race day I will stick with that rule….well, maybe for a munchkin I can make an exception.  I guess that was my dessert after having just taken a GU energy gel around mile 5.  We passed the first relay exchange point just after this (did the second relay runners get a munchkin?) and headed back towards the center of the city. The good part about having the relay exchanges along the course (separated into 4 members per relay team) was that there was always really good crowd support and energy along each part of the route.

Enjoying a little boost at the Munchkin Mile

Enjoying a little boost at the Munchkin Mile

We had to dodge a couple of cars which the local police had let through during a gap in the runners. Eventually we made a left and we headed downhill all the way to the Inner Harbor. This part of the course is a flat out and back around the harbor (I have yet to see water go uphill) so it gave us a bit of a break with no elevation. The out and back was from mile 8.5 to mile 13.5. We could see the relay exchange and the half marathon start line as we set out along the harbor and the crowd support was nice and loud as we ran along the course. As we passed the heavily trafficked part of the harbor the crowds thinned a little as we ran out further than along the course. We had run here with the boys in the double stroller a couple of years ago but we hadn’t gone this far down. I wasn’t sure where the turnaround was until we turned a corner and saw the ‘Under Armour’ headquarters which we ran through as the turn around point. That was cool. I was carrying a water bottle on my race belt so I stopped at the water station and refilled it to take with us and we headed back towards the crowds around the main part of the harbor.

As we circled around the harbor we approached the start line of the half marathon. The half marathon had started at 8:45am so the runners were gone by the time my wife and I arrived around 9:20am. We hit the 13.1 mile split at 2:17 on a pace for a 4:35 marathon (which included one port-a-potty stop). Not bad, averaging a 10:30 minute mile pace. The half marathon takes a slightly different course from the marathon for the first 3 miles or so and joins up with the full marathoners around mile 16. As a result the miles from 14 to 16 were probably the least crowded in terms of runners and crowd support for the whole course.

Remember that I mentioned the cobblestones earlier? Well, we revisited that area around mile 14 as we rounded the harbor. Although it was only a short amount of time on the cobblestones I almost went down. A bit scary. I was very glad to get over that stretch of the course. Then it was a gradual but long uphill from mile 15 to mile 19 at Clifton Park. At mile 16 we hit the half marathoners and it definitely got more crowded. We may have hit the rear of the half marathon as there were a lot of walkers in the groups we were passing. Granted, this was all uphill so not too many were running this part. We were running through neighborhoods at this stage of the race and many folks were sitting on their front steps out cheering for the runners. Crowd support was great for the course.

2014 Marathon Course map

2014 Marathon Course map

This was the elevation chart per my Garmin file

This was the elevation chart per my Garmin file

As we passed through Clifton Park there was a slight downhill to Lake Montebello. This again was another flat part of the course as we ran around the lake. As we entered the park I saw a sign which said 25 and having not memorized the route I told my wife that I thought once we had run around this lake we are almost home…duh…we were nowhere near the end. As we made it around the lake it was only two miles. I had read a date on a banner in the park…it said October 25 not mile 25.  Maybe I was hallucinating at this point. Interestingly as we hit mile 20 and the flat part of the course my wife began to struggle. Here hip and knee started to ache and we stopped at the med tent so she could grab some medicated cream to rub on her knee. She actually struggled from there onwards. When we ran the Philadelphia Marathon back in 2013 she had a similar issue but that had occurred very shortly after halfway so she had made it further this time before she ran into difficulty. We did a little bit of walking around the lake and slowed our pace quite a bit but we were determined to finish. As I said earlier, I am pretty regimented and I make sure to take my energy gels every 5-6 miles. My wife on the other hand is a go with the flow person. She takes an energy blok if she thinks she needs them and at that point she hadn’t taken many, I think less than 100 calories of fuel all the way to mile 20. I think in hindsight she under fueled herself during the race and this was her body beginning to get tired which may have caused her to be uncomfortable on the way back in.

Running around Lake Montebello

Running around Lake Montebello

I'm not sure if that's a smile or pain on Shari's face... I was scared to ask

I’m not sure if that’s a smile or pain on Shari’s face… I was scared to ask

Exiting the park at mile 21, not 25 😦 , we headed back (uphill) through various neighborhoods before hitting mile 23 and the long straight downhill to the finish. As we ran through these neighborhoods the crowds were out in force, encouraging the runners and providing them with treats such as gummy bears, other candy and beer, (or is that boh?). My wife took the gummy bears and we both avoided the beer. She was suffering a little going up the final hills and I got one of ‘those’ looks that told me not to ask how she was doing.

As we ended our run through the neighborhoods and headed back into the city proper we knew we were going to make it. It was a matter of ticking down the final 5K to the finish. As we got closer and closer we could feel the excitement that we were almost home. Soon enough we saw the stadiums as we approached and we ran into the entrance to Camden Yards. The finish line however wasn’t in the stadium so we may have gotten our hopes up too early, however we were not too far and finally the finish line was in sight. Holding our hands high above us we crossed the finish line together. Shari had finished her 3rd marathon and I had just finished my 10th marathon. We hit 4:45 which was pretty much what we had planned even though we had slowed over the last 6 miles.

4:45 exact per my watch (official time was 4:44:58)

4:45:00 exact per my watch (official time was 4:44:58)

We did it

We did it

That was the finish line we saw a few hours earlier in the dark

That was the finish line we saw a few hours earlier in the dark

We grabbed our medals and made it through the finish area to get some fuel. We sat down for a while to catch our breath and finally relax a little. Although Shari was struggling for the last few miles after sitting for a while and stretching she felt fine. It shows that she was just tired and not injured which is a good thing. We were both pretty tired but happy and very pleased that we had run another marathon together.

With our medals

With our medals

This was what we earned for our work

This was what we earned for our work

Shari celebrates finishing her 3rd marathon

Shari celebrates finishing her 3rd marathon

I'm celebrating finishing my 10th marathon (wow...I really said that!!!)

I’m celebrating finishing my 10th marathon (wow…I really said that!!!)

I would say Shari was feeling a little better post race

I would say Shari was feeling a little better post race

Looking at our results we noticed that Shari had improved her marathon PR by a minute from her last marathon in Philadelphia last year. She also said she had another PR in that she didn’t get mad at me until past mile 20 which is way longer than normal despite all my chatting and high fiving folks along the course. I call that a win!!!

So now what? We couldn’t get back to our hotel to shower so we went to ‘Plan B’. Shari still has membership with the LA Fitness gyms and that gives her access to any of their gyms in the US. She had a spare 2 day guest pass so we found a nearby LA Fitness and drove there, checked in and showered. Once we were all clean we decided to head over to Fells Point along the harbor rather than back to the Inner Harbor area. This was a great choice as it gave us many options to find a place to eat and also gave us a chance to walk around and stretch our legs before getting back in the car for the drive home.

All clean and looking for a place to refuel

All clean and looking for a place to refuel

We found a great place for lunch (the Green Turtle) and after lunch Shari walked around looking at each of the boutiques in the area. I didn’t mind too much as most of them had couches for me to sit down on. Ultimately we ended up at Kilwin’s for some ice cream as part of our post marathon refueling. We totally went to town as we had earned it. Try the cinnamon crumb cake ice cream if you ever go there.

They had fries. It was good.

They had fries. It was good.

Kilwin's for our post race treat

Kilwin’s for our post race treat

During lunch I noticed that the back of the medal said ‘It’s a hill…get over it!’. Ha ha, so true. Funny.

Ha ha!!

Ha ha!!

It started to get a little cold and windy so we called it a day around 6pm and headed home to pick up the boys. It was an easy drive home and we picked up our boys around 8:45pm. They were all dressed in their pajamas and waiting to go home. Nice.

This was a great choice to run. It was a great course (though hilly) and took us all over the city. I would highly recommend this. We were lucky to have perfect weather, the trip to and from Baltimore was easy and other than the issue with the hotel it was a perfect trip. In summary this was a great course, great support, great race organization, great shirts and a great medal. I’m glad we chose this and this being my 10th marathon I will remember this one for a long time.

Yes...we are THAT couple

Yes…we are THAT couple

I know this was a really long post but thanks for hanging in there.