In late March my wife and I traveled to California to take part in this year’s Los Angeles Marathon. I’ll say it now…it was a great experience and I highly recommend it.
In looking for a spring marathon together we had originally set our sights on running Rock ‘n’ Roll New Orleans. We had some logistical issues (no babysitter for a long weekend) so we searched around a little more. I still had some airline miles from my previous job that were going unused, so we threw caution to the wind and figured that we’d go big or go home. LA was the chosen destination and it proved to be a great choice.
So, if you know anything about us we don’t just go to run. We sightsee. A lot. My wife is an event planner by profession and as soon as the registration for the race had been processed then the planning spreadsheet was created. I should note that this blog may turn out to be more a whirlwind tour of Los Angeles with a little run thrown in the middle versus a race recap LOL. What do they say about keeping off your feet before a marathon? We seem to ignore that and go by the rule ‘No sleep until Philly’ whenever we go on a road trip. As this was going to be a special trip for us I invested in a refurbished GoPro for the trip. Lot’s of experimenting including running in my local park to see how I could manage this on race day. I think the local wildlife must think I’m really weird.
Training for a spring marathon means training through East Coast winters. Although this was not a terrible winter (save for a really cold snap) we didn’t have too much snow compared to prior years but it was just the cold that was bone chilling. Hence, most of the training took part indoors on the treadmill. Knowing that we would be running soon in sunshine with palm trees framing our streets this was motivation for pushing through those endless hours running and not getting anywhere. I think I made it outside for long runs about 50% of the time but I did log at least one 20 miler inside on the treadmill. Plus side is that I got to catch up on a lot of Netflix shows.
We headed to LA on the Thursday before the race. We had an early morning flight but with the time change we arrived early afternoon. We stayed in Culver City which was fairly close to the airport so the drive was short. We picked Culver City as the race finished in Santa Monica about 10 minutes away and being a point to point race the buses left from there to the start on race morning. It was close enough and just being a few minutes away from Santa Monica itself was cost effective. We dropped our bags and headed straight to Santa Monica and some warm sunshine. We scoped out the area a bit and rented bikes to travel along the beach towns towards our destination for the evening in Abbot Kinney.
Friday was race expo day and we got up early to head to downtown LA to pick up all race bibs and gear for the weekend. We got up early because we had heard many times over that driving in LA was really bad. That’s all everyone seems to go on about when talking about LA. However, I must have been lucky the whole visit as we never seemed to have any traffic issues the time we were there and we drove around a lot….again, the event planner with us.
The expo was at the Convention Center just behind the Staples Center and we had fun walking around before we actually got into the expo. Once inside everything was clearly marked and identifiable. As we walked in we bumped into Rudy Novotny the race announcer. I know Rudy from meeting him at runDisney events in the past. He gave a shout out to ‘Team Shenanigans’. Good times.
The marathon sponsor this year was Skechers and the merchandise area was full of cool looking and very reasonably priced gear, definitely not New York City Marathon pricing for sure. I ended up buying a fun shirt representing the course and my wife bought a fun hat. She had more luck at the Lululemon pop up store outside of the official merchandise area. Doesn’t she always seem to have ‘luck’ at Lululemon??? The expo was not huge for a race this size and we went through fairly quickly. A lot of sponsors for local races which wasn’t going to be of much interest to us visiting for the long weekend. I did bump into my friend Michael who was using this marathon as a stop on his way to his 50 States goal. I also took the opportunity to treat myself to the Normatec vendor’s offer of a free leg treatment. Very relaxing.
After the expo we took a trip up to the Griffith Park Observatory for the afternoon after a stop at the steps famously used by Laurel and Hardy in the short film ‘The Music Box’. I had seen this movie many times over the years and had planned to make this a stop on our trip as I noted it was near the Convention Center. That’s a lot of stairs before a marathon. Mind you, the hike up to the Griffith Observatory isn’t less of a work out either. The views at the top were worth it. From there we took a drive to Beverly Hills and Rodeo Drive. We would be running through these streets on Sunday so we took the time today to enjoy them at a more relaxed pace before grabbing dinner and a reasonably early night. We had accomplished a lot and we still had a day to go before the marathon.
Saturday morning was the day before the marathon…surely we would stay off our feet today? Nope. We came all this way for this race so we had to pack in as much as we could. We started the day with a ‘hike’ to the top of Runyon Canyon. The views of the Hollywood Hills were spectacular but the sign warning of us to be on the look out for rattle snakes was just a tad disconcerting. Following an insanely crazy breakfast at ‘The Griddle Café’ in Hollywood we spent the afternoon exploring up and down Hollywood Boulevard. Again, we would be running this the next day but I was on the hunt to find some of my favorite stars on the Hollywood ‘Walk of Fame’ as well as the hands and feet in cement at the ‘Chinese Theater’. We also took a tour of the Warner Brothers Studio where my wife and I reenacted scenes from some of our favorite shows on the actual sets…and were given ‘that look’ from the tour guide. Hey, we were having fun. After a nice pre-race pasta dinner at a fancier than I was expecting restaurant (I was fully prepared to be turned away based upon what I was wearing) we headed home for our early (and I mean early) wake up for our 4:30am bus from Santa Monica the next day.
Waking up at near Disney race times is not always fun but we had a great tour of Los Angeles and it’s surrounding neighborhoods planned for the day. I had pre-reserved parking in one of the lots closest to the finish line and we headed out around 4am for the short drive to the buses. The drive was short but the lines to get into the parking was longer than we expected. Nevertheless we were soon parked and on route to the buses. It was quick and easy and the drive from Santa Monica to the starting area at LA’s Dodgers stadium took about 20-25 minutes.
We got there with plenty of time to spare. It was dark so we just followed everyone else into the stadium where all the bathrooms were open on the concourse. These were much better than waiting outside for port-a-potties. Plus we got to sit in the stadium and relax for a while before having to head out to the corrals.
Go time for the race was 7am and so we headed out to the corrals while it was still dark. We missed where to enter into the starting chute and ended up with a whole crowd of people at the barrier at the side of our predicted race pace. It was a bit of a mess trying to get in. People were shoving here and there. We had asked a couple of volunteers early where we needed to be and they didn’t have much of an idea. Anyway we made it into the corrals (with the mob) and set about heading to the starting line and out of Dodgers Stadium. The race announcers mentioned the number of runners participating in the ‘Students Run LA’ program who were running in the marathon today. About 3,000 students would be running their first marathon on the day. They were clearly identifiable in their bright yellow shirts. More on this later.
The LA Marathon is advertised as the ‘From the stadium to the sea’. The course starts in Pasadena at Dodgers Stadium and the course takes you through the streets of Los Angeles and its surrounding neighborhoods to finish along the Pacific Coast at Santa Monica Pier. It is a grand tour with some fantastic sites. The following list of mile markers is from the official LA Marathon website.
Mile 1 – Dodger Stadium
Mile 2 – Cesar Chavez Blvd
Mile 3 – Downtown LA
Mile 4 – Disney Concert Hall
Mile 5 – Downtown LA
Mile 6 – Echo Park
Mile 7 – Silverlake
Mile 8 – Los Feliz
Mile 9 – Thai Town
Mile 10 – Hollywood Walk of Fame
Mile 11 – Grauman’s Chinese Theater
Mile 12 – Hollywood
Mile 13 – Sunset Strip
Mile 14 – West Hollywood
Mile 15 – West Hollywood
Mile 16 – Doheny Drive
Mile 17 – Rodeo Drive
Mile 18 – Santa Monica Blvd
Mile 19 – Westwood
Mile 20 – Westwood/Sepulveda Blvd
Mile 21 – VA/Wilshire Blvd
Mile 22 – San Vicente & Bundy
Mile 23 – San Vicente & 26th
Mile 24 – San Vicente & 14th
Mile 25 – Ocean Ave/Palisades Park
Mile 26 – Santa Monica
As you can imagine, we were excited by the prospect of some fantastic opportunities to see this city on foot and we weren’t to be disappointed. Conditions on the day were amazing. Clear blue skies and streets lined with palm trees. Just like the brochure 😉
I’m not going to go into detailed description of the course but I will share some of the highlights of the day. At the end of this post I will attach a link to my video (from the GoPro) of our day out on the marathon course. As for the course, in summary, it was great. Lots of eye candy. Plenty of photo opportunities and more hills than I imagined (hey…’Hollywood Hills’, ‘Beverly Hills’…how did I not see that coming). I wouldn’t say this was a course if you are looking for a fast time unless you were going to be near the front. This was the Olympic Trials course for 2016 so it could be considered fast but it was quiet congested mid-pack as there were a lot (or so it seemed) of first time marathoners out there. Going back to what I was saying about the 3,000 Students Run LA participants, you have at least that many first timers and it just made it that much more congested. Don’t get me wrong, these kids were amazing. Running a marathon at that age is such a great achievement but there were many ‘packs’ of runners along the course.
We did have a great time and there were many highlights. Around mile 7 we had our first personal cheer leader of the day. I had met Phillip through my connection with Autism Speaks many years ago. He has since moved on to work with the Arthritis Foundation but as an LA local he came out to support us and even made a sign for us. That was a great boost early in the race. Around mile 20 when things start to get rough during a marathon a cousin, Paul, who loves out in the LA area came out to support us. He was there to cheer on his fellow gym team (Paul competes in stair climbing challenges). He ran along side us for a little while and gave us another much-needed boost. We would get back together with him for brunch the next day. Finally, as we entered Brentwood in the last few miles of the race, Kristen who is another LA local and a member of Team Shenanigans had a cheering section out on the course. So much fun to meet her and to see that she had chalked our name on the ground in anticipation of our arrival. That was awesome to come all this way and have people we knew come out to cheer for us really made the day.
There was so much to see out on this course and the crowd support and the neighborhood support was amazing. There weren’t many quiet stretches along the course. It was crowded but it never really felt quiet. So many people out there. It helps when there is great weather to begin with.
Towards the end of the race it was heating up. The sun was shining and there was not much shade. Neither of us struggled with this but judging from our time we were not pushing it. Not our slowest time as we still seem to take more time out on the course during the Walt Disney World Marathon but an equal number of unique photo stops for sure.
As we headed up Santa Monica Boulevard towards the pier at the end of the race I can truly say that we enjoyed our time out on the course. It was not a matter of wishing the finish line were closer. It was great out there. A wonderful medal and a memorable experience.
It was however a longer than anticipated walk back to the parking lot where we had arrived several hours earlier. We stopped at a Starbucks on our way to the car for a quick refreshment and some much-needed air conditioning before returning to our hotel for a quick shower and more sightseeing. We spent the afternoon driving up the Pacific Coast Highway to Malibu where we had a celebratory dinner by the beach. Cannot beat that for a post marathon celebration.
The next day we had a late night flight so we had a relaxing morning. My wife had thought ahead and booked us massages for after the race. I usually like a deep tissue massage but I was discouraged of this notion by the masseuse for the day after a marathon. She was probably right. We then met up again with cousin Paul and his wife Evelyn for a nice long brunch before taking our sweet time of driving back to spend the rest of the day walking along the beach in Santa Monica before heading off to the airport for the red eye back to Philadelphia…where we could finally get that sleep we needed.
Here is the link to the video I made of the race. It was my first attempt at making a recap video so you may have to cut me some slack. Hope you enjoy it.
Let’s pretend I own a time machine and I can take you back to last November (which is a sneaky way of saying I am late posting this recap). Okay, now that you have suspended disbelief for a while I will take you back to late fall where my wife and I ran the 2018 Philadelphia Marathon together. I like to do this race every year as (1) it was my very first marathon and will always be special and (2) it is essentially my local marathon, I can drive there in the morning and be home by noon(ish). I have run this every year since I started ‘marathoning’ and only missed one year (2014) as we were on vacation for Thanksgiving. This would be my 8th Philadelphia Marathon and only the second time that I have run this together with my wife. We last ran this together in 2013.
In addition to running with my Wife again this year a new challenge for me was that this was only two weeks after running the 2018 New York City Marathon which is the shortest time I have ever had between marathons. I was a little nervous and hoping I would be able to manage the distance and support my wife the whole way. Although a little apprehensive going in, I’m always excited when this race comes around. I have many good memories from this race.
Before the race was the expo. This year was located as usual at the Philadelphia Convention Center. I made the trek to the expo the day before the race to pick up our race packets and to also pick up our pre-ordered merchandise. This year was an anniversary year, the 25th anniversary of this version of the marathon, and I was hoping that they would be making extra effort for all the runners. In 2013 when my wife and I ran together it was the 20th anniversary race and they awarded us with a special gold (colored) version of the race medal.
Arriving at the expo
Arriving at the expo
Arriving at the expo
As I picked up my bib, one of the volunteers noted my New York City Marathon race shirt and said something to the effect that they didn’t know if they would be able to run two marathons so close together…at this point, neither did I. It would make for an interesting weekend.
I headed in to get our bibs and as this was the first year of the new ‘Philadelphia Challenge’ I headed to grab the special fleece that my wife earned for running the ‘Broad Street Run‘ back in May and the Philadelphia Marathon this weekend. I picked up a fleece that showed 36.2 miles for the Philadelphia Challenge.
The merchandise area was set up as it had been for the last couple of years. I took a quick look knowing that I had already spent my race weekend budget on pre-orders. I saw a couple of jackets similar to the one I had pre-ordered but in different colors and slightly different logos. As I tried them on I suddenly realized that the sizing seemed a little off from what I was expecting. The size large that I had ordered (while trying these jackets on) was huge. I would be swimming in the jacket. I looked around in vain to see if there were other sizes of the jacket I ordered but no 😦 . I told a member of the event staff my pre-order details and also asked if there were any medium jackets back behind the merchandise and not on display. They came back with my order and said there were no other sizes. As this was the Saturday before the race they were pretty much sold out. I checked the bag to make sure I got what I ordered and lo and behold, I had ordered a large jacket but there was a medium in the bag!!! Wow! It fit great. Day made 🙂 .
After passing through the merchandise section I headed out into the main hall. As I mentioned earlier this was an anniversary race and so they had on display all the t-shirts, bibs and medals from each respective year through 2017. These were pretty cool to see.
My first marathon finisher medal – 2011
I headed through the exhibitor section of the expo. Having been to many of these I was used to seeing a number of the vendors and didn’t spend too much time. I did make one purchase of racedots to try out for the weekend. FYI, the magnets are really strong and (spoiler alert) they worked well for the race. I did see a funny t-shirt for any spectator that made me chuckle.
I also stopped by the CGI Racing booth to ‘spin the wheel’ and win a prize. My wife had asked me to stop by and see if I could pick up a coupon for a race discount for ‘The Love Run‘ in March as she wanted to run again in 2019. I did one better…I spun the wheel and won her a 50% discount for the race. I picked up a discount coupon for the ‘Rutgers UNITE Half Marathon‘ in April which I planned to run and hadn’t run since 2016.
After the expo I headed home to get ready for the race and set out my gear before an early dinner and an early night. I was going with the understated look this year as you can see.
Race day arrived and after an early morning wake up and drive to the City we were primed and ready for the race. The temperature for the day looked great for running, a little cool to start but in the mid 50s for the most part of the day while we would be running.
Arriving at the race
We were soon in the starting corral and ready to go. A chilly start but we hoped it would feel comfortable soon as we set out running.
I got many cheers of ‘Go Brexit’ which was not what I was going for. My wife thought it was funny though.
We started out running an even pace in the mid-9’s for the first few miles. The pace was agreeable and we took in the clear morning and crowd support. All was going well. We had headed down through Center City to Columbus Boulevard and then through Queen’s Village and South Street and then back up Chestnut Street.
As we headed up past 30th Street Station and onwards towards the Drexel University campus (around mile 8) my wife took a fall. Completely face planted. Her first fear was that she was going to be trampled by the runners behind her but myself and another runner were quick to pick her up and I made sure she was okay. I think she was a little stunned for a moment so we walked a little to make sure she felt okay and was calm. She had fallen on her knee but nothing of major consequence that we noted at the time. Later after the race there was a little grazing to the knee but no major injury, just a little shaken up.
The fall had stopped our momentum a little (and understandably so). We took it easy as we set off again hoping that there were no ill effects. After the Drexel Campus there are the two biggest hills on the course. The one leading up to the Philadelphia Zoo and then the one leading up to Memorial Hall. These are the only two significant hills you have on the course. Our pace dropped as we hit these hills but we were still in the low 10s for the most part through Fairmount Park and then up Martin Luther King Jr. Boulevard as we made it to the halfway point just before the Philadelphia Museum of Art. It was a really beautiful day. One of the best things about running this race are the views as you run alongside the river.
As we rounded the Art Museum (mile 14ish) and headed out along Kelly Drive towards Manayunk, my wife started to struggle a little. Not from the fall (her knee wasn’t bothering her) but she sometimes gets hip and IT band pain during long runs. It doesn’t happen in every marathon but we had just done the hilliest parts of the course and I think it was beginning to catch up with her. It was also warming up so that may have added to the stresses. We had already run 14 miles and that is no mean feat in itself. Our pace slowed as we started to take some walk breaks and we were now running miles in the 11 minutes per mile range but at least we had forward momentum and were making our way along the course.
The crowds are thinner from the point at which we leave the City through the park and up Kelly Drive which sometimes makes that stretch seem longer than it is. We finally reached Manayunk (miles 19 through 21) and this is where the crowds pick back up. We were welcomed by residents handing out oranges, beer and other goodies. The crowds were thick and loud as we reached the end of the main street and hit the turnaround. Once you get to that point around mile 21 you know you are going to make it home…although it does seem more than 5 miles to you at this stage. We were doing well, taking walk breaks as needed.
On the road back from Manayunk it is just a matter of keeping focus and committing to getting to the finish. People are dragging at this stage. We just kept focusing on form and moving along and not trying to think of any negative thoughts. At one point a local running club was offering some relief for runners during the last few miles. My wife stopped at one of these stations and had a lady massage her IT band with a running stick (like a rolling-pin being pressed into the muscles). It brought tears to her eyes. Not sure if it was pain or relief but she wanted to hug the lady and thank her. Relief I guess as she wasn’t complaining.
As we hit mile 25 and rounded the corner we could see the Art Museum in the distance and knew we were almost home. As we approached mile 26 the crowd was deep and loud and we saw people we knew out there cheering us on. Any moments of discomfort or pain were behind us now as we sprinted toward the finish line to cross with an official time of 4:42:56. Not our fastest but it was quicker than my wife’s last Philadelphia Marathon. She had made it through the discomfort of the back half of the course and overcome a little fright from her fall earlier in the race. I was really proud of her. I had finished my second marathon in the space of two weeks so I was thrilled.
We passed the finish line and went to collect our medals. Our friend Robyn was at the finish line as a volunteer passing out the medals and it was such a nice surprise to see her and receive our medals from her.
Always great to finish another marathon and as you can see we pretty happy.
As usual, we didn’t hang around too long. Always somewhere to be. In this case it was a birthday brunch for one of my wife’s friends so we dashed to the finish line to pick up our car and head to our sister and brother in law’s house for a quick shower. As we were dashing to the car we bumped into another friend who was out there cheering people on.
Always fun to have cheer leaders out there
Done and headed for brunch
We walked into the brunch (although we Uber-ed to the restaurant) wearing our medals. We had earned our food and it tasted really great. Our medals were replicas of the Liberty Bell and we had the sounds of ringing in our ears all day as we wore our medals.
No surprises here. I’ve already signed up for the 2019 race.
This was the big one, the one race I have been looking forward to running since I decided to enter the New York City Marathon back in 2014 for the first time. I didn’t get in that year or the year after. My wife got in through the lottery in 2016 (read the race chase recap here) and in 2017 I finally got in through the lottery…which then clashed with a family event which led to me having to defer. Quite a build up. 2018 was going to be the year. I had a long time to plan for this.
As you may know from previous races I have run to raise funds and awareness for autism charities over the last few years. This year I chose to run for the Organization for Autism Research (Run OAR). I had met members of this charity group at expos over the years and always promised I would run for them one day. With my own entry I was able to choose to run for them with no minimum fundraising commitment. They were a very gracious team and they provided everyone with a free training plan. Although I had already chosen a specific plan (which I will talk about later in this write-up) I was still able to interact with the team coach and take part in some of their online pre-race presentations.
This was going to be the largest race I have ever taken part in. As soon as I was a year out I was able to book my hotel room. I followed the same trip plan that we my wife and I took back in 2016 when she ran. Staying in ‘Hells Kitchen’ mid-town about a 10 minute walk from the Javits Center and about 10 minutes or so from the New York Public Library where the buses would leave for the race village on the Sunday morning.
So, re-winding a few months before the event I decided to choose a new training plan. This time using the Hansons Marathon Method. This is a unique approach to marathon training and the plan has had a lot of success from professional and amateur athletes alike. I decided to put this to the test for myself and committed to a 14 week plan which would start early August about a week post the New Jersey State Triathlon. The 14 week plan started off at 40 miles per week peaking at 60 miles per week. The longest run on this training plan was 16 miles where previously I would have run 20-22 miles in preparation for the marathon distance. This plan is highly structured and includes two specific speed workouts each week. The mid-week distances were greater than I was used to and with the ‘shorter’ weekend long runs this would explain the distances run each week. One of the key factors behind this plan was ‘cumulative fatigue’ which essentially is to use speed/strength workouts with minimal recovery to build up a stronger base. The aim is not to train for the first 16 miles of the race but the ‘last 16’ miles of the race. I decided to give it a go and programmed all my workouts into Garmin watch ready to go each day. By the way, they were not exaggerating about cumulative fatigue. This training plan pretty much wore me out but I was committed and stuck to the plan as best I could. Whether or not it would work for me would be seen on November 4th!!!
A very structured approach to marathon training
The weekend finally arrived (thankfully…I guess I was getting a bit obsessive about it) and I made my way up to NYC on the train. I met up with our friend Stephanie (who also traveled up and ran in 2016 with my wife) on the train and we traveled up to New York City together. Once we arrived in Manhattan we dropped bags at the hotel and headed to the expo at the Javits Center. Stephanie and I were in the same starting village and wave (blue-wave 2) so we planned on meeting up the next day.
Arriving at the expo
I travelled up with Stephanie who was running this event again. We planned to meet up again at the race village the next morning.
This was a huge expo. I remembered when my wife ran it there was so much to see. The expo volunteers were great. The logistics for getting to and from this race are involve selecting your mode of transport pre-race (bus or ferry) and selecting post race poncho or bag check (it’s all about the poncho). The volunteers made sure that I had all the right details in my packet including wave and corral, wristband for post race poncho and the timing of my transport to the race. Following this was the t-shirt pickup. There was a selection of shirts of different sizes to try on before picking up the shirt. This was a good job as they ran small for their size and so I was glad of the opportunity to make sure I got something that would fit.
Welcome to the NYC expo
The T-Shirt sizing area. What a great idea.
The official store had lots of (highly priced) memorabilia for the weekend
The official store had lots of (highly priced) memorabilia for the weekend
From there it was onto the official gear store (run by New Balance this year vs Asics when my wife ran). I tried (in vain) not to spend too much money while there. My goal was to get a jacket from the race. I did get one in the size and color I wanted (one of the last) and I have to say that the Asics jacket my wife got a couple of years earlier was much nicer. Still I would wear this jacket everywhere and as much as I could after the race (weather dependent…it wasn’t a warm jacket).
After checking out of the official race gear store there were some great opportunities for unique photos to remember the weekend by before entering the rest of the expo. Once we were in the main expo, Stephanie and I bid each other farewell until the next day and I was able to spend some time exploring. I stopped by the OAR booth and picked up my charity village wristband which would provide me access to the specially reserved area at the athletes village on Sunday morning.
The money shot for the day
Previewing the course for tomorrow’s race
I found my name on the runners wall
I found my name on the runners wall
After spending some time in the expo I made my way back to the hotel to formally check in, get my gear ready for the next day and relax before heading out to the charity dinner at Carmine’s just off Time Square.
Finishing up at the expo
Finishing up at the expo
My big purchase from the expo was a NB running jacket
Flat Ian making an early appearance
One of the things my wife had me do before leaving for New York was to grab a Sharpie and write my name on my shirt. There is so much information on the NYC marathon bib that there is no space for the runners name. She remembers people shouting out names from the crowd and remarked that it was such a great experience I had to find a way to get my name on my shirt. So a Sharpie it was.
After relaxing in the hotel and charging up all my devices for the next day I made my way to the team dinner. It was a great evening with so much food. This was a great team to run for and everyone seemed very excited to be a part of the team. They kept bringing out more and more food but when the mountain of cannolis was brought out I bid my farewells and made my way back to the hotel for an early night…via Starbucks so could get my regular pre-race cookie. The clocks went back an hour during the night so I was pleased to get home early and take advantage of that extra hour of sleep. It was going to be an early wake up the next day.
Walking through Times Square on the way to dinner
My pre-race cookie. Keeping the streak alive.
After a pretty good night’s sleep, the first of my ‘4’ alarm clocks went off at 4:00am. I had set 4 alarms for 4:00, 4:01, 4:02 and 4:03…I wasn’t going to take any chances. My bus was set to leave the New York Public library at Bryant Park at 6am and I still had to check out, stow my luggage and walk across town. I also recalled the long lines for the buses from when my wife ran in 2016. I had a cup of coffee and a breakfast bar for what would be my first breakfast of the day and got myself bundled up together with my race bag (to be disposed of at the race village) and headed out to Bryant Park. I was wrapped up in a few layers and had brought with me a spare mylar blanket and some spare towels to sit down in the starting village. We would be waiting around for a long time.
Wrapped up for the cold start.
It was a brisk walk to the buses and once I arrived it was very well-ordered. You get on a bus, it is filled and they go off with minimal fuss. I got settled in for what would be at least an hour ride. I sat towards the rear to the bus and was surrounded by a whole group of British runners, some from my hometown. I tried to start a conversation with my seat mate for the journey only to find out he was Italian and spoke no english. Ha, just my luck. I settled in and enjoyed (?) the ride to Fort Wadsworth over in Staten Island. We arrived at 7:15am. Having been up since 4am it was time for my second breakfast. I wasn’t set to go off until 10:15am so lots of time to wait around although we needed to be in the starting corrals by 9:45am.
Once through security and entering the village I searched out the charity tent area to check in with the team, grab a cup of coffee in the heated tent (and the reserved port-a-potties for the charity village). Getting to the charity village involved moving through a sea of people. With 50,000+ runners in various waves there were plenty of people milling about before the race. Once my wrist band had been checked I went into the charity tent village area to relax for a while. I had plenty of time to wait around and I would spend some time here before going out to meet Stephanie.
The view from the bridge into Fort Wadsworth as we arrived in Staten Island
Arriving at Fort Wadsworth and waiting to clear security
The sign says we have arrived
A sea of people relaxing and waiting for the start
Heading to the charity village which was much less crowded
Warming up inside the heated tent with some coffee pre race
After chatting with the other OAR runners I made my way out to meet up with Stephanie in our color village (Blue), after another stop at the private port-a-potties. Although there were signs everywhere as the place was so big it took a while to walk and find Stephanie. Once we were together we hung with a crowd of runners and chilled out until our wave was called. In the meantime we heard the cannon go off for the elite runners and the first wave. A loud bang in the distance. It wouldn’t be long before it was our turn.
Signs, signs, everywhere signs…
The sun was coming out and it was starting to get warmer. I had already lost a couple of layers at this point.
We had been chatting with a group of runners from all over and there happened to be another British runner with us. This would be his second marathon and he and I were in the same wave and corral so we hung out until the start of the race. Stephanie was in corral B and I was further back in corral F so we wished each other good luck and made our way off to our respective corrals when they opened at 9:45am. I left my hooded jacket with one of the runners we were hanging with as they were not going off until Wave 3 at 10:45 and it was still cold enough for an extra layer.
Once in the corral we made our way up to the base of the Verrazzano Narrows Bridge where the race was to start. I was feeling relaxed and ready and now it was all up to my performance on the day and to see if the Hansons training would truly pay off.
In our corral and waiting to go. That’s my Starfleet command hat.
Walking up to the bridge
I see it. After all these years I was finally at the start line
It still took a while to even reach the start timing mat
After all these years waiting I was finally at the start line. My goal was to hit my pace as best I could with a goal of 3:45 (stretch goal) second goal 3:54 (PR) or break 4 hours if possible. My iPhone was switched off, I would need to save the battery to find everyone at the finish line, and I didn’t plan to listen to music. My wife told me when she ran the crowds were so loud she couldn’t hear her music anyway. Let’s do it!!
The start of the race is from Staten Island from the foot of the bridge so we start the race by essentially running up hill. We would reach Brooklyn by mile 3. The sky was sunny and clear blue. The view from the top of the bridge right into downtown Manhattan was truly breathtaking. Let’s just stay the up half of the bridge was a little steeper than I had expected. This would be the first of 5 bridges we would be crossing during the day. Once clearing the bridge we were welcomed by the first of what would be a lot of very vocal crowds for the day. Welcome to Brooklyn. This would be our home for miles 3-12.
The race is split into 3 starting waves. The green and blue waves start from the top of the bridge and the orange wave starts from the lower deck and all three waves merge at the 5K mark. If you think it is crowded for the first couple of miles it was nothing to when everyone merged at mile 3.
The crowds were amazing and having my name on my shirt was a really good piece of advice. The water stations were plentiful and clearly signed so that you could see them from a distance. Despite the crowds I was still able to keep pace. My first mile was over 9 minutes but that was due to me going easy up over the bridge and weaving a little through the field where I could. I was holding a low 8 minute pace for miles 2 and 3 and still under 9 minutes through mile 4 including my first water stop. The field of runners were packed into the streets which sometimes appeared narrower. The first water station was at mile 4 and as it was beginning to warm up I decided to walk through each water station and alternate between water and Gatorade at each station.
I was slightly behind pace but maintaining in the region of my goal pace through mile 7. By mile 8 I needed to take a potty break which slowed me down somewhat but I was able to get back on pace shortly after. I was over an hour into the race by now which meant it was 11:30am. I had been up since 4am. Usually I would be done by a marathon at this time and I still had another 18 or so miles to go.
As I said before, the crowds were great, well maybe, except for the Orthodox Jewish neighborhood toward the tale end of our time in Brooklyn. The sheer number of runners still didn’t stop people trying to cross the roads in their neighborhoods. We even encountered an old lady in the worlds slowest powered wheel chair who was determined to cross the street regardless of the oncoming surge of runners. All part of the on course entertainment I guess.
We spent 9 miles in Brooklyn which was by far the longest stretch of any borough during the race. The road ahead was rolling hills and all you could see ahead was a mass of people. We then entered into Queens across the Queensboro Bridge around mile 14. I was beginning to notice that this course was hillier than I had expected. The bridges also added more to the overall elevation. We hit the halfway point as we were going up towards the Queensboro Bridge. At this my splits were already slower and I passed the timing mat at just on the 2 hour mark. I figured out very quickly that NYC was not the place to PR. The crowds are too much to get a clear pace and you cannot help but weave about as the roads are not that wide. I also think that as we were already past noon the heat was becoming more of a factor. PR gone, let’s see how I would handle the second half and see how close to 4 hours I could get.
My splits for the first half
My goal for Queens was to enjoy the race and maintain my pace. This was a more quiet part of the course but this all lead up to entering Manhattan for the first time as we crossed the 59th Street Bridge onto First Avenue. The run across the bridge was pretty much a silent march. Yes, another hill. As it was a bridge there were no crowds. All you could hear was an eerie silence and the footsteps of your fellow runners. I will admit that at this stage I had to stop and walk up the bridge for a little. I knew that once I rounded the corner after crossing the bridge I would be in Manhattan and the noise and crowds would be insane. I needed to regroup so I would be able to enjoy my experience. I knew my wife and other family members would be waiting somewhere along the route at mile 17 so that motivated me to go onwards.
Once you get away from the silence on the bridge into Manhattan you are hit by what I can only describe as a wall of sound. Think ‘THe Beatles at Shea Stadium’ kind of noise. Utterly crazy. And what a spectacle. Crowds multiple people deep on each side of the street. Again, I’m glad I had my name written on my shirt. These crowds were keeping me motivated. I kept looking left and right for my wife (she’s not that big LOL). As I had put a Red Fraggle puppet on a pole to help her find me in 2016, this year I was looking for Super Grover on that same pole. Pretty easy to spot from a distance I thought.
We spotted each other
I was very relieved to see her
Always time for a little TLC
She had prepared a few signs for the route. This was the first.
I have to admit that seeing my wife really helped. She was tracking me and she knew my goal time so she must have known I wasn’t hitting my splits. When she asked me how I was doing I had to admit that I was struggling a little. I think the heat was getting to me by this stage. My heart rate was more elevated than normal. It could have been a combination of many things, adrenaline, caffeine in my energy gels (not doing that again) and perhaps just the whole being up for multiple hours playing trains, planes and automobiles getting to the race start. I was just feeling tired. But after having seen my wife and family I had a new pep in my step as I made my way up First Avenue and headed out towards the Bronx.
This was probably the shortest part of the race after Staten Island as you are really in and out of the Bronx very quickly. It is just miles 19 and 20 and for that you have to cross two more bridges. People around me were definitely starting to tire at this stage. I wasn’t doing so great myself but I started recognizing people I had either started with or had passed me in the earlier miles of the race. I’ve never truly ‘hit the wall’ in a marathon but I was definitely feeling it a bit here. Was it the training plan that only took me up to mile 16? I don’t think so based upon the Facebook group from Hansons Marathon Method runners who all seemed to be PR’ing left and right, it must be me. I would later find out from all my friends running the race that they were all fading around the second half of the day. I think I mentioned before that this, although not the hilliest marathon I’ve ever run (see Baltimore, Pittsburgh, DC and Delaware), it was just relentlessly rolling.
Once back into Manhattan we had another 10K to go to get to the finish line in Central Park. I remember my wife saying that the run up Fifth Avenue to was tough at this stage in the race. It was all uphill until around mile 23 where we reach Central Park for the first time. This was the second location where it was planned to meet up with my wife and family again. Time to start looking for Super Grover.
They found me again…or I found them.
The best kisses are at mile 23
Another motivational sign
My splits for the second half of the race were disappointing for me. The race goal itself was a bust but I made a choice to just soak in the atmosphere as this may be the only time running this race and experiencing this marathon major. It was an incredible experience and one I had been looking forward to for a long time. All I wanted to do now was to finish under 4:20 and enjoy the last few miles. After my brief but energizing stop for a kiss with my wife I certainly picked up the pace over the last two miles. Central Park is not flat by any means but as we left the park and rounded Central Park South before returning into the park, the crowds were huge, the noise was amazing and it was a really great way to motivate myself to get to that finish line. And there it was. I saw it and made my way across under 4:20 (4:18)…although Tiki Barber crossed at the same time and they shouted out his name….who does he think he is??? Well, he’s Tiki Barber!!!
Not my best but I still finished and that’s always a good sign
See, I finished!!!
I was cooked. I was tired. I was relieved. I made it through the five boroughs of New York CIty. The biggest marathon in the world. In fact, I ran the race faster than it took to get to the start line. That is truly crazy. I was so happy to get my medal.
This guy!!! My personal medal handing out volunteer!!! I was so happy to see him.
Hey, look!!! It fits!!!
I got my mylar blanket from another volunteer and made my way to where the post race goodies were being handed out. We were given a clear bag which contained water, gatorade, an apple and something else…I cannot remember. All I wanted was the water. I was so tired. Then came the walk out of the park to where the ponchos were being handed out. That was a loooong walk. I actually had to ask a volunteer to loosen my laces on my shoes as I just couldn’t bend down at that moment to undo my shoes without the fear I could not get back up again.
Cooling down and happy
Amongst the many leaving the park….all walking slowly
Finally we excited the park onto Central Park West where the ponchos were being handed out
The view suddenly changed
And this is why I ran this race…well, one of the reasons
I was finally able to get through the crowd and had arranged to meet up with my family at the JCC in Manhattan where a good friend had provided me with a guest pass so I could get showered and change into some fresh clothes which my wife had brought along. What an amazing shower. Loved it. Felt so good. It was around 3pm by the time I was able to feel fresh and clean. We left the JCC and headed out to get a cab, grab my luggage and head for a nice post race meal.
There was no way we could get a cab at that time of night at that location and Uber was pricing us at around $90 for a journey down town so we decided to head to the subway on 72nd street and ride down to 34th street which was near my hotel. Luckily runners ride for free on race day. 🙂
We grabbed my bag from the hotel and headed to Ben’s Kosher Delicatessen which was on the same street as my hotel and where we had celebrated my wife’s New York City Marathon in 2016. I was very hungry. I had been thinking about being here since I passed the deli on the way to the buses at 5am that morning.
Heading to Ben’s. Both wearing our respective NYC Marathon jackets.
Ready to indulge and treat.
Some great matzo ball soup to help refresh and revive.
Don’t question why I am wearing my Delaware Marathon shirt and not my New York City shirt. That was packed in my bag and I was too hungry to change my clothes at the hotel. This was what I had put in my change of clothes bag. The medal, however, was a giveaway that I had run. That and the way I was walking probably were the hints.
After dinner we made it over to the train station in time for a 7:30 train back home which meant I would probably be in my own bed just after 9pm. It had been a long day and I was still going to work the next day. Once on the train my Garmin buzzed and told me I’d been sitting still for too long and to ‘Move’. Ugh…as you can see from the picture below, after 33 miles on my feet, moving was the last thing I wanted to do at that moment. I won’t discuss here how I lost my car in the parking lot carrying all my luggage for an extra mile only to remember I parked the floor above. As I said…it was a long day. Finally I got home and other than doing my teeth and going to bed I cannot recall much once my head hit the pillow.
It was not the PR race that I had been planning for. I’m not sure I would jump straight back into another Hansons plan without losing a few extra pounds (yeah…that doesn’t help). It was a truly memorable event logistics aside and I was really happy to be able to run for this charity. In fact, I received a thank you card and a team medal in the mail soon after the race. Very thoughtful. I would run this race again if the opportunity arises but would love to run it with my wife next time.
A nice surprise from the charity after the race.
So that’s my (very long) New York City marathon recap. It was almost as long as my build up to the race. Memories 🙂
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
On Sunday 19th November I participated in my sixth Philadelphia Marathon. I have come quite a way since my very first marathon also in Philadelphia in 2011. This race would take my total number of marathons to 19 setting the stage for number 20 in January at Walt Disney World. Trying not to get ahead of myself though, I’d like to focus on my experience for this race.
Last year the running of the Philadelphia Marathon transferred hands from the City of Philadelphia to the race team that hosts the Broad Street Run. They made some changes to the weekend, some welcomed and some less so. One of the changes was to split the half and the full races into separate days and different courses. They also created a challenge event for those that participated in both races, the ‘Rocky Challenge’. If you follow my recap from last year you can read how that unfolded.
This year the race organizers announced the challenge (rebranded the ‘Liberty Bell Challenge’) at the time of registration. Seeing as I will be running a 39.3 mile event at Walt Disney World in January I decided that I would focus on just the marathon this time around. I do occasionally need to get some sleep.
As always, I was getting excited prior to race day as I followed my friends running the Chicago Marathon, the Marine Corps Marathon and the New York City Marathon in the weeks leading up to Philly. I was just waiting for it to be my turn. Soon enough though the weekend rolled around.
I visited the expo on Friday evening. It was again held at the Philadelphia Convention Center in Center City. Packet pickup was fairly straight forward. I was only doing the marathon this year but it looked like they were pretty organized for the challenge runners unlike last year when no one seemed to know what I was talking about.
Arriving at the Convention Center
Once I picked up my race bib and shirt I went back to a table I had passed on my way to packet pick up to do a quick meet and greet with Bill Rodgers who was signing copies of his new book. I asked him to sign my bib as I had met him previously but didn’t think to ask him for his signature. I hoped that having a four time Boston Marathon and four time New York City Marathon winner and former Olympian sign my bib would automatically make me run faster…
Bib pick was well organized
Bib pick was well organized
Bib pickup was fairly easy
Once I had finished meeting Bill (he’s a talker 🙂 ) I headed over to the expo and to the race merchandise area. As per prior year it was well stocked and divided up into men’s and women’s sections. I made my purchase of a puffer vest that I had looked at the prior year and passed on and also a new beanie. I was happy with my purchases but even happier about the bag that they provided for my new gear. Okay, maybe I get too excited by race expos but I thought that if they are going to take the time to provide logo bags then they might enhance the running experience on the day. We shall see.
Meeting Bill Rodgers
Fingers crossed this brings me good luck
At the expo they had the Lexus pace car on display. It was covered with the names of all the runners. This was not an alphabetical list so after a few minutes of looking for my name I gave up. I’m sure it was somewhere on there. Why would it not be alphabetical????
I didn’t make any major purchases at the expo…unless you count registering for another marathon. Yup, I’m now registered for the 2018 Delaware Marathon in late April. I had my eye on this as I can drive there on the day and I was looking for a spring race. They were offering a discount so I went for it. Looks like another winter training plan for me. With no other merchandise jumping out at me and no other needs or accessories that were required I headed home for an early night and hopefully a restful weekend.
My next race…after my next race
What was planned to be a restful day came to a grinding halt early Saturday afternoon. While I was driving the family to the car dealership so my wife could do some test drives, I had a major cramp in my left calf. It came from nowhere and was extremely painful. I couldn’t walk for a good amount of time and I was seriously concerned. I reached out to my runner friends for advice and they all told me to hydrate. I started pounding water for the next couple of hours to which came the next bit of advice…don’t drink just water, electrolytes…you need electrolytes. So at this point I was heading home and started taking salt tabs every 30 minutes or so as I tried to massage out my calf. Then I was told to take an Epsom salt bath which I did and followed that up with a hot shower. Next up, icy hot applied to the area and then a calf sleeve. Desperate….you betcha!!!!
Well, with nothing more that I could do I headed to bed. Hoping that the rain that had been coming down all afternoon would give way to some better weather (spoiler alert – it didn’t) and that I would get a good night’s sleep so that I would wake up rested, relaxed and hopefully with a seemingly normal feeling calf muscle.
All set and ready for the next day
….so at 3am when my neighbors were still partying I sat up in bed and decided then and there that I was buying my eldest a full drum kit when he needed it…
My alarm went off around 4am. I started to get ready, very bleary eyed, listening to the wind and rain outside the window and feeling my calf muscle still sore and tight. I guess my goal time was out for the day.
I headed downtown hoping to get to my regular parking lot before they started blocking off the roads and was able to make good time. It was still raining while I was driving down and also as I walked to the race staging area holding onto my rain poncho and praying it didn’t fly away. Thankfully as the morning started to break the rain stopped. There was still a very strong wind and it was cold but at least the rain had stopped. That was something.
Heading to the race start and clinging onto my poncho so it wouldn’t fly away
Unfortunately due to the amount of rain which had been falling steadily since Saturday afternoon the ground was saturated. It was pooled with water and muddy in many areas. I met up with a colleague who was also running and we headed to bag check together. In past years (each of the 5 previous times I have run this race) bag check is in Eakin’s Oval itself on the paved area. This year they had moved it off to the side of Eakins Oval. While the trucks were on the street you could only access this by walking across the grass…which happened to be almost ankle deep with wet mud in places. Another annoying aspect of the bag check was that it wasn’t sorted by bib number nor alphabetically, it was a first come first served process. Everyone went to the first truck they saw which was out of the way of the soggy ground. This became a mad crowd surge as people started hearing the National Anthem being sung. We had only a few minutes to get to our corrals before our waves went off and people were still queueing up to check their bags. Crazy. What a mess. I ended up with a tag from truck 2 and my bag was put on truck 3. I’d have to hope that they sorted the bags out before I got back at the end of the race.
A grey morning start at the corral
The race had already started before I made it to my corral but my corral had not yet been released. It was a mad dash but I made it. Talk about an adrenaline rush. It was crazy. Although the rain had cleared it was still cloudy. The temperatures were in the high 40s but with winds of 25mph+ and gusting well above that the temperatures felt much colder.
Once my corral was released and we were underway I kept up with the pack of runners around me. I had set my goal time to sub 3:50 hours and a secondary goal of 4:00 hours. This meant running a pace in the mid 8:30 minutes/mile. As we were running down towards Delaware Avenue (around mile 2) a gust of wind blew as we passed by a gap in the buildings and everyone moved sideways. Wow. It was strong. I was able to maintain a pace between 8:25-8:30 minutes/mile for the first 7 miles or so despite the headwind but as I ran towards Chestnut Street around the old city I felt my calf tweak again and I knew at that time I would have to back off or at least do something different.
I had not been doing any run/walk intervals during races since running the Mohwak Hudson Marathon back in 2016. With the sudden jolt to my left calf I decided to minimize any pain/damage and go back to my old intervals. My Garmin watch still had alerts as I had never turned them off so I just settled into a 4:00/0:30 minutes/mile run/walk ratio so that I could keep my momentum going. This slowed my pace a little but not considerably so I was able to keep moving at a decent pace. My sub 3:50 may be out of reach but I felt good for a sub 4:00 hour (or close to it).
Running up Chestnut Street towards Drexel University was like a 2 mile wind tunnel. All around me people were losing hats/visors. I tightened my hat on my head and just pushed into the wind waiting for a break when we turned the corner up towards Fairmount Park. The wind was pretty brutal.
The sun was out though so it was still an enjoyable run. The crowds were out to cheer despite the cold and the wind. That is one of the best things about the Philadelphia Marathon. The crowd support for the first 10 miles is great. It thins out a lot in Fairmount Park until you get back to the Art Museum around mile 14 and then thins again until you hit Manyunk. Still, the crowds are one factor in this race that keeps me coming back again and again.
The run through Fairmount Park was fine (once you get beyond the big hill up to Memorial Hall) and I’m glad we get to spend more time in the park so that we can avoid the old out and back that used to be around mile 17. This however prevents you from hitting the half way mark at the Art Museum as used to be the case when the Half and Full marathon was run on the same day. We hit the Art Museum around mile 14 since they changed the course and I was there just in time to see the race leaders making their way up the finish line. Yup, they were 12 full miles ahead of me…and running in singlets in this weather.
The slog…sorry, run…up to Manyunk along Kelly Drive is scenic but into wind is just tough. Very tough. There is no shelter from the wind the whole time you are running. The course is fairly flat but it felt like you were running up hill all the way as the wind was just relentless. Some of my friends behind me took pictures next to trees that had been snapped in the wind. Yes, I’m not exaggerating that the wind was strong.
At least when we entered Manyunk we were sheltered from the wind by the buildings. This also made it much warmer for those miles. The run through Manyunk is an out and back from mile 19 to 21. There is a slight uphill but with a break from the wind this didn’t seem too bad. I was slowing a little though. My pace had fallen off while running miles 14 to 19 into the head wind. I was probably not looking to make my 4:00 backup goal. My goal was to finish and do so with a smile.
So, thinking that if you are running into wind you would have it on your back on the way in would make sense…neh, all of a sudden you get a cross wind on the way back from mile 21 to 26 (insert face palm emoji here…) The run back was steady. I was just looking to finish at this point. My legs were aching more than usual for a marathon. I can really describe conditions as though you were running uphill the whole way because the wind was honestly that strong on the day.
I made it to the finish line in 4:08. Not my best time but again not my worst. I was very relieved to finish this one. As I was running the finisher chute there was a runner receiving emergency medical treatment just in front of the finish line. I saw someone go down just after they crossed the finish line. It was not an easy day. Still, marathon number 19 was in the books.
Another marathon finish in the books
Marathon #19 complete
I stopped for a large cup of hot coffee on my way home. I’d earned that for sure. Usually I’m pretty much up and about the afternoon of a marathon but I was cooked. I needed to rest up. I reviewed my running data and looked at my charts. Holy moly that was an effort today. My time in the highest heart rate zone was insane. 2:31 hours out of the 4:08 was almost at maximum effort. I wasn’t exaggerating when I said it was not an easy day.
24 ounces of pure gold
A little too much time in the high red zone
Interestingly enough, it took me a few extra days to recover from this race. I’m usually sore a day or two after a marathon but I was really struggling even by day 3. I finally was able to run properly just in time for our Thanksgiving Day run on the Thursday post race.
I told my wife I may be taking a break from Philly after this year, after all, I’m running the 2018 New York City Marathon next November. That was until Black Friday when I signed both my wife and myself up for what will be the 25th anniversary running of the Philadelphia Marathon. I’m a sucker for a special medal.
Back on March 11th, my wife and I were in Washington D.C. to run this year’s ‘Rock ‘n’ Roll’ D.C. Marathon. This was our first ‘RnR’ race outside of Philadelphia where we have run the Half Marathon each of the last few years. This was our chance to run multiple ‘RnR’ races in one year and earn one of the extra medals in their ‘Heavy Medals‘ series.
We had signed up for this marathon with the added incentive that Marathon Finishers were to receive a special jacket for completion of the race. We are pretty easily motivated by free swag and so that was the mantra for our all the winter training to be ready for the early (or just pre) spring race.
Our big fear training through the training was that it could be a bad winter. Actually, it was pretty mild. We did lose a couple of days of training due to snow and ice but for the majority of the workouts we were able to run outside, especially on some of the longer runs. In fact, the last long run for this marathon occurred in February when we were able to dress in t-shirts and shorts as the weather was so good.
During our last long run together I said we had been incredibly lucky with the weather which was when my wife yelled at me for jinxing us. Just because I had said this she started to say she would blame me if the weather turned bad. Oops.
As we got closer to race weekend the forecast kept getting colder and conditions worse. I felt a little unsure of my safety…I had to keep reminding my wife about the jacket…it’s all about the free jacket. In fact, the day we left for the race (Friday morning) there were a couple of inches of snow on the ground and the weather driving down to D.C. was pretty bad until we got to Maryland where it cleared up. As you can see from the screenshot below, it wasn’t going to the kind of weather for t-shirt and shorts.
We arrived at the D.C. Armory early in the afternoon and were fortunate enough to find a parking space right outside the building. While the sun was still shining, it was far from nice weather. It was cold and windy. There was quite a lot of security to get into the building (every bag was checked and we were all scanned by a security wand). This led to waiting lines outside the building and it wasn’t exactly good weather for queuing up either. In fact, I had to run back to the car to grab some jackets as we were standing in line for a while.
Made it to the Armory – we had to go back to our car to get coats so we could wait in the line outside.
Once inside the expo we were led downstairs to bib pickup. We also had the chance to try on the Marathon Finisher jackets to make sure we had selected the right size. Bib pickup was fairly simple and t-shirt exchange was easy.
Bib pickup was on the lower level, the expo on the upper level (despite where the arrow is pointing)
Bib pickup was quick and easy
My wife has second thoughts about letting me personalize bibs in the future
My wife has second thoughts about letting me personalize bibs in the future
The infamous jacket
Once we were done with pickup we headed up to the main floor for the expo. This was typical Rock ‘n’ Roll series expo where Brooks Running had a significant presence followed by the general expo out on the rest of the floor. We didn’t pick up anything at this part of the expo but I did get to see the special edition Brooks Adrenaline Rock and Roll shoe. This happens to be the shoe I run in so I’ll keep my eye out for some discounts.
Your typical Rock ‘n’ Roll Brooks set up
Brooks Adrenaline GTS 17 – Rock ‘n’ Roll Special Edition
Other than the jacket, this was what we were running for 🙂
We then headed out to the main expo. Interestingly it was quite a small affair than what I had expected. We were quickly through the floor and didn’t really see anything unique that caught our eye.
Obligatory race bib photo
Just before the exit to the expo Rock ‘n’ Roll had some race merchandise set up. Both my wife and I bought the same cool shirt, me the long sleeve and my wife the tank t-shirt.
We bought the Abe in the sweatband t-shirt
I had signed up on the website to reserve spaces on the bus that would return us from the finish line back to the start line (this was a point to point race). I asked the information booth where to pick up the tickets. I was told all I needed to do was to show my receipt (the email) to the driver the next day. Sounds easy, so off we left for our hotel.
Outside the expo we bumped into my friend John who hosts the Runner of a Certain Age podcast (we recorded a race recap a few days later which you can listen to with this link). He was running the half marathon the next day. We probably wouldn’t see him the next day as the marathon started at 7am and the half marathon at 8:30am so we wished him luck and will probably catch up with him again at another race.
We then headed to check into our hotel and then meet up with a friend for a pre race dinner. We made a reservation at a restaurant near our hotel in Dupont Circle which was recommended by a fellow Mickey Miler teammate who works nearby. We met up with our friend Robyn and it was a nice relaxing meal. It was obviously a popular place pre-race as more runners seemed to check in for dinner (we figured that with the sneakers and their Rock ‘n’ Roll gear bags they were runners).
Walking to dinner from our hotel. Notice the cherry blossom behind us.
After dinner we stopped into Starbucks for my usual pre-marathon cookie. It’s a tradition I work hard to maintain 😉
It wouldn’t be a marathon without a pre-race cookie
As the weather was not expected to get above the mid-20s the next day I set out warmer clothes than I would normally run a race in. I used a jacket that I could zip open or closed depending on the conditions. It was more worried about waiting around at the start but I did have a plan for that.
Flat Ian – a little warmer than usual.
As we were close by to the start line we were able to walk from our hotel. We got up at a reasonable time (my wife would tell you too early) and made our way to the lobby (she refused to leave until she saw another runner pass through the lobby). My wife was wearing her New York City Marathon finisher blanket and I was wearing my father’s old dressing gown that he left on his last visit from the UK. It was nice and warm and worked perfectly (although I looked like an escaped mental patient walking the streets of D.C.).
We look silly but warm
We walked to the starting area from our hotel as the sun was rising and noted other runners doing the same. As this was the National Mall where the Smithsonian Institute, the White House and all the other Governmental offices were situated I expected quite a lot of security around the perimeter. Certainly after how much there was at the Armory the day before. Instead there was none. There were no check points, nobody checked our bags. Really unexpected.
Once we were changed out of our warm gear (I decided to pack the robe rather than throw it at the start line) we headed into our corral.
The trash bags are out. That should keep us warm in the corral.
Not a bad view to start a race. Early in the morning – note the long shadows.
Ready to get moving
The starting temperatures were in the low 20s. There were not many marathon runners and they brought the waves through very quickly. In fact, as they moved the waves forward we ended up actually on the start line rather than back of a corral so it was kind of weird to be right up front waiting for the word to go, but once we got the word we were off (and hopefully giving us a chance to warm up). We had been out of our plastic bags for a couple of minutes waiting at the start line and already I couldn’t feel the ends of my fingertips never mind my toes.
Here is the full marathon course map:
Full Marathon Course Map
The first mile of the course took us around the Mall and a few of the surrounding Federal buildings. We actually passed by the White House within the first half mile (it was to our right). Again, I was amazed by the lack of any security…I wasn’t amazed by the lack of spectators as it was very early and very cold.
Thankfully it was a beautiful sunny day. As there were fewer marathoners overall and the half marathon wouldn’t start for another 90 minutes or so we had wide open space to run. When my wife and I ran the Marine Corps Marathon in 2015 there were 40,000 people running at the same time. This race had about 2,500 people running and this made it comfortable to run.
After rounding the Mall and the Federal buildings there we ran around the Kennedy Center and the Watergate Building Complex and onto a short out and back that took us along the back of the Lincoln Memorial and along the Potomac River. I can tell you from comparison of the both this race and the Marine Corps race that you get to see more of the District during this race. I think during the Marine Corps Marathon (technically starting and finishing in Arlington, VA) you only get 2-3 miles at the most in the District.
Between miles 5 and 6 of the course was the ‘inspiration – run to remember’ Blue Mile. It was all uphill but the side of the road showed pictures of all the fallen who have served our Country. As we neared the second half of the hill, members of the military and families of the fallen were holding American flags out for us as we passed by. It was a big hill but puts into perspective that it is just a hill and there are people who endure more on a day-to-day basis. For that reason, we could make the hill with no complaints.
We ran through some genteel neighborhoods in D.C. and the weather was sunny but still cold. The sun helped but you could definitely feel the cold when you hit shaded areas. It was nice running through the Howard University Campus around mile 8-9 and the drumline that was playing was pretty great. In one of the neighborhoods during the first half some spectators were handing out champagne and donut holes. Sweet.
As we run through the Capital Hill district just before mile 12 we got a beautiful view. It was a gorgeous looking area and the view of the Capital at the top was the only time during the race we decided we needed to stop and take a picture.
In the Capital Hill area with the Capital in the background.
We rounded the corner into another nice neighborhood and we saw the markings where the half and the full were to split. The wind was picking up now and one of the directional signs blew down right in front of us. The split for the half occurred around mile 12.5 so we didn’t really see a glimpse of the finish line (actually it approached from a different direction than the full marathon). We still hadn’t seen any half marathoners as, although they would have already started, we were running a decent enough pace that even the leaders would have been a few miles behind us. We continued at a fairly decent pace. Pretty consistent actually and at this pace we would be on to beat my wife’s recent New York City Marathon PR from last November.
We hit the Washington Nationals Baseball Park just before mile 15 and the aid station before the bridge that would take us over to Anacostia Park along the river. This was the first time we saw that there were not enough volunteers manning the water stations. Most people were running the half marathon (13,000 vs 2,500) so we anticipated less spectators along the second half of the course but it seemed that also resulted in fewer people manning the water stops on the second half of the course. Don’t get me wrong, the volunteers were enthusiastic, there just were not enough to keep up with the runners. In fact, for most of the second half of the course water was the only thing available, no Gatorade, at many of the stops. You could see that the Gatorade mix was there in the boxes but there not enough volunteers to prepare the mixture let alone hand it out. It may have been something to do with the cold weather and I cannot fault Rock ‘n’ Roll because there were enough aid stations, just not enough people to manage.
The section from mile 15 to mile 18 is an out and back. Not much to see but you are always thankful when you reach the turnaround point. These are the tough miles in the marathon especially when it is an out and back. From mile 18 to around mile 21 we ran along the Anacostia River and a loop around the park. Although there wasn’t too much to see it was peaceful and thankfully all flat. The wind had again picked up and running along the water made the temperatures feel colder. We never really got warm during the race.
Okay then, here we go. As you leave the Anacostia Park area you enter Fort Dupont Park where there is an unfortunate hill, the second such hill of the day, however it was not a pretty sight at mile 23! It is both long and steep. We were becoming a little slower paced (still on for the PR) but we had managed to be caught by the 4:15 pace group. We watched them ‘attack’ the hill. The only thing I can tell you is that less than half of the group was still together at the top of the hill. It took a lot out of everyone. Unlike the hill around mile 5-6 there was not much to inspire, this was just a gutsy get to the top effort. We had to remind ourselves again about the jacket at the finish line 😉
Here is the elevation chart for the race. You can see both hills.
A couple of hills during our run.
That last hill, positioned where it was on the course, took a toll. We slowed down quite a bit. My wife began to feel some discomfort in her knee. I could feel my calf muscles twinge from the elevation. As we made our way back to the finish we had to walk a bit. My wife told me to go ahead but I was not intending to leave her so we walked probably close to half a mile or so until we saw RFK stadium rise up in the distance. It was then a run/walk to the finish (we had run straight through until the hill and were making good time). By now we had slowed down and the PR was out the question, still I knew we would still get to the finish around four and a half hours which was just a few minutes slower than my wife’s New York City time.
The stadium was on the horizon but it was like a wind tunnel running up to the finish line. The wind had picked up again and it was just cold. Slowing down had allowed us to cool down which didn’t help either. Nevertheless we sucked it up and made a run to the finish. We rounded a small hairpin turn within the last quarter of a mile which is where the half met up with the full. The finish line was divided into two different sides and the finish chute for each race started as the two races met up. We crossed the line in 4:31:16 which considering our big slow down over the last 3 miles was not a disaster.
We stopped for a quick picture before looking for a mylar blanket to keep us warm. It was still only 26 degrees at this time of the day even before the wind chill. Brrrr….
Made it. Another marathon down.
This was my 18th full marathon and my wife’s 9th. It was, despite everything, a good day.
We made our way through the finish line area to pick up some water and other refreshments. I like Rock ‘n’ Roll races as there is always chocolate milk at this finish line. This race was no different. However, as it was so cold it was like drinking a milk shake. I got brain freeze. My wife was so cold she couldn’t drink it. Our mylar wraps were blowing around and not really keeping us warm so we hurried over to the bag check to get our warm gear out again.
Feels amazing to be warm(ish) again.
We then had to line up for our Marathon Finisher jackets. After all, this is why we did this, right? Apparently, so did everyone else!!! Long lines but they moved fairly smoothly.
Look at all these crazy marathoners looking for a free jacket.
Once we had the jackets it was a matter of finding the shuttle back to the start. I had my tickets so I headed to the information booth. The lady at the information booth said that there were no shuttles and didn’t know what I was talking about. The map did however show a VIP shuttle area so we headed over to the VIP area to ask about the shuttles to the start line. No one had any idea what we were talking about. The map did say where they were supposed to be so albeit with little help from anyone who knew anything about RFK stadium we made our way to where the shuttles were said to be parked. There was a lot of walking involved….and stairs. We were not happy (or optimistic at this point).
Yeah…just what you want to see at a marathon.
The only problem was, no shuttles. Any empty parking lot. Ugh. We made our way to where the roads were open to traffic and decided to call for an UBER (this would be my first!!!) We had no money so the taking the Metro was out. This was not smart and totally my fault. I had four fully loaded Metro cards back in the hotel but I was relying on the shuttle so I didn’t bring them along. As we approached what appeared to be every UBER users’ rendezvous point we stood and waited for ours to arrive. Luckily ours seem to arrive ahead of everyone else and so we took it back to the hotel which was better than the shuttle would have done for us anyway. The driver even cranked up the heat for us in the back. We were very grateful.
Best UBER driver ever!!!
We made it back to our hotel and grabbed some coffee to warm up. We showered and got ready to head out for a late lunch. We took time to admire that darned jacket!!!!
Was it worth it? I’m not sure. I just like running marathons I guess.
So that we didn’t stiffen up we decided to take a walk from our hotel around the local area and grab a bite to eat. We filled up on warm yummy food and indulged in an awesome peanut butter milkshake (which we did share). Notice my wife is wearing her marathon finisher jacket 🙂
She had to make sure the jacket got into the photo.
We took another UBER into the District and spent the afternoon at the National Museum of American History. Specifically the Armed Forces exhibit which we didn’t get to fully see when we came with the boys last summer. We were in the museum until it closed around 5pm and then took the rest of the day walking through the Mall and back to our hotel where we were pretty much beat for the day.
Walking around to keep ourselves moving.
Marathon legs? What marathon legs?
36.3 miles? Yes, I was pretty much toast by the end of the evening.
The next morning we had brunch plans with a friend of my wife. We did have a reservation but it was still an hour or so wait for a table. We gave the restaurant manager our cell number and he said he would call us around 15 minutes before our table would be available. We took advantage to walk around the George Washington University Campus where we were and then headed over to the Lincoln Memorial. It was a glorious sunny morning (still not warm but warmer than the day before). What a great finish to our weekend.
At the Lincoln Memorial
At the Lincoln Memorial
At the Lincoln Memorial
Despite the cold we really enjoyed the race. The course was beautiful but the hills were tough. It was definitely worth more than just the jacket.
Thank you for reading (I know this is really really late).
Life has been a little busy, all good though. I’m only just getting around to catching up so this will be a quick recap of both January and February together.
Here is my Garmin and Nike data for January.
Garmin Connect – January 2017
Over 201 miles this month – 178 miles running with a couple of days cross training (Swimming – 1.66 miles and Biking – 21.85 miles). Notice January 7th with the snow shoveling activity that got added!!!!
Nike just records my running total. This is the result of training for a marathon during the winter.
Nike + Summary – January 2017
I was happy to wake up early on January 1st and knock out a 15 mile run while the streets were quiet. Best running day of the year (provided you are dressed for the weather). We have had a fairly warm winter although I did have to take a few long runs on the treadmill due to juggling some parent handling duties and extra early morning runs. Still, I was able to keep myself occupied with numerous episodes of Star Trek – The Next Generation.
My wife and I were still able to get outdoors together thanks to the mild weather. This made winter marathon training much more fun – especially when we were able to get our long runs in together while the boys were in school on Sunday mornings.
Here we are running along the Delaware Canal Towpath
Crossing the Delaware River at Washington Crossing. A little colder but still a great morning.
Here are my Garmin stats for February.
Garmin Connect – February 2017
You will notice another day of snow shoveling on February 9th. To have only 2 days of major shoveling in two months is great and welcome relief for my lower back! No swimming this month but total miles of 166 miles for the month made up of almost 141 miles of running and 25.5 miles of riding (indoors). As you can see we knocked out the last of our long runs mid month and very happily enjoyed the start to our taper.
Nike + Summary – February 2017
February weather was incredible. I got to run my last 20 mile run outdoors in t-shirt and shorts….in February!!!!!!
Incredible weather for mid-February. So lucky.
For Valentine’s Day this year my wife decided to sign me up for a couple’s class at the Orange Theory Fitness gym she attends regularly. Boy, was I not prepared for that. I did hold my own but I’m not used to doing squats holding medicine balls or doing multiple rounds of burpees (they are not a nice thing!). I was very happy to have survived and enjoyed our sushi dinner at the restaurant next door post workout. With an extra helping of green tea ice cream.
My one, and to date only, Orange Theory Fitness class report
I had to skip my running for a couple of days after this as my quads were beaten up from the squats and burpees but I guess it was good for me.
February also brought about registration for the 2018 Walt Disney World Marathon weekend. Usually registration opens up in April but it seems to be getting earlier and earlier. My wife and I haven’t done a runDisney race since we did the Goofy Challenge back in 2015. This was the 25th Anniversary Walt Disney World Marathon and that it would be a special race (we had run the 20th Anniversary race back in 2013, my wife’s first marathon). We would also be timing this to be my wife’s ’10th’ marathon and my ’20th’ marathon. Big goals. To add into the mix we decided to register for the Goofy Challenge again. This is really such a fun race and this will be her 2nd Goofy and my 4th (if you include the Goofy distance that I ran as part of the 2014 Dopey Challenge). Our boys are signed up for the ‘Mickey Mile’ too that weekend. Lots to look forward to in 2018.
It should be a very special race again
Ready for a redo of our Goofy fun. Costume ideas are being planned.
Looking forward to another Goofy Challenge together
But firstly in March we have the upcoming Rock ‘n’ Roll D.C. Marathon and then I will be back in triathlon training mode. It will be a busy year.
Another late ‘Month in review’ post but technically getting in under the wire.
November was a busy month with 150 miles in training and racing. Not my biggest month for distance but one of the busiest for activities. With all the running, I did still return to the pool for the first time at the end of the month for my first swim since September. I’ve been focusing on my marathon training since my last triathlon so it felt good to finally get back in the water.
November 2016 – Nike+ Summary
The month started off with the New York City Marathon. While I was not running myself (hoping to eventually make that lottery) I was there to cheer on my wife as she ran earning a new PR that day. It was my first time ‘race chasing’ and spectating a marathon and it was truly a thrill. The excitement for waiting for and watching my wife run her race and to cheer on friends and complete strangers was such a great experience. I cannot wait to experience this race for myself one day.
My wife and her NYC Marathon finisher medal
The weekend before Thanksgiving is the Philadelphia Marathon. This year was the inaugural ‘Rocky Challenge’. While I have mixed feelings about how the weekend was organized I was proud of my performance in running both races, the Half Marathon and the Full Marathon back to back, in under 2 hours and 4 hours respectively. They were two of my best performances at those distances this year.
A good weekends work. A sub 2 hour Half Marathon and a sub 4 hour Full Marathon
On Thanksgiving Day itself is the annual Bucks County Road Runners Thanksgiving 5 Miler. This was my first race way back in 2010 when I started running. My wife and I ran together the whole race and this was our second fastest time we have run the race. It was a nice start to a long weekend of family time and was a great way to finish the month.
Pre-race at the Thanksgiving Day run
Always great to cross a finish line together
A nice way to earn our Thanksgiving dinner treats
November marked the end of my race season but after a week of recovery I jumped straight into week 4 of my marathon training plan for the 2017 Rock ‘n’ Roll DC Marathon next March. Oh well, at least I finished the race season upright and healthy so that is something that I really want to give thanks for.
Earlier in the year I had entered the TCS New York City Marathon lottery with my wife. She got in, I didn’t. That left me looking for another fall marathon just so it would not drive me crazy not having a race during that time. With family located in Albany, NY and the reputation for this being a fast course I did some research into this race. There was also the Hannaford Half Marathon running concurrent to the marathon (essentially the last 13.1 miles of the marathon course) and this distance slotted in nicely with my wife’s NYC training plan. This helped seal the deal and so I signed us up for our respective races.
I knew this was not going to be a big city marathon but I knew there would be a lot of serious runners taking part so I thought this would be a good race for me to attempt and conquer that sub 3:50 marathon that has so far remained elusive to me. With the date set and the training complete we planned our weekend.
We picked up the boys from school and packed our car. The drive to Albany was 180 miles at the end of a long week. The boys were pretty good (i.e. we fed them so they would be quiet) along the route. We stopped just once along the route and as it was a Friday evening we battled some weekend traffic so we didn’t get into Albany until close to 11pm that night. The boys went to bed quickly and we took the opportunity to get a good night’s sleep as we didn’t plan on heading to the expo until late morning.
The expo was being held at the Hilton Albany, NY which was just over a mile from our hotel. Parking nearby was easy and free at weekends. Good to know as I would need to drive to the same location the next morning.
New York State Capital, Albany NY
Once inside the expo we headed first to pick up our bib and race packets. It wasn’t a huge room nor was it a huge expo but there was plenty to look at and the race merchandise area itself was plentiful and very reasonably priced. We were probably in and out of the expo within 30-40 minutes which included shopping and chatting with the vendors there.
Arriving at the expo
Marathon packet pickup
Half Marathon packet pickup
Ready or not
A map of the course (both the full and the half)
There were some very reasonable prices for marathon gear
A small but busy marathon expo
A small but busy marathon expo
A small but busy marathon expo
After the expo we headed over to visit family for the day. The plan was for us to spend the day with them and the boys would be sleeping over at their house so we would have someone to look after them in the morning. Both races were point to point races ending in downtown Albany which was about 10 miles or so from where the family is located so it was convenient from them to come out and cheer the next day.
Post expo and ready for race day
Meeting up with family
We spent that afternoon at a farm in Esparance NY picking pumpkins, walking through a corn maze, doing a scavenger hunt and eating warm apple cider donuts (that was my favorite part). From there we headed back towards home and had an early dinner at a local Italian eatery, where I proceeded to eat the bread basket. After dinner we took the boys over to a local trampoline park to get out whatever energy they had left and then after saying our goodbyes we left them with family and headed back to our hotel to get everything ready for the next day.
The face on my little guy (in the yellow dress with the bunny) is priceless
I’m lucky to have this little lady
I didn’t forget my usual pre-Marathon tradition of a cookie the night before the marathon. There was a Starbucks in the hotel for my convenience.
Was this a potential PR cookie?
Flat Ian set out for the next day
We woke up early on Sunday morning. As we were planning to head over to meet up with family after the race we planned to shower there after the race so we checked out of our hotel early and headed over to the where the buses would be shuttling us over to our respective start lines. The hotel seemed to be popular with other runners and we all pretty much departed at the same time. My wife always thinks I make her get up and leave too early. Having other people leaving the same time as me is my only defense to that argument.
It was a 10 minute drive to the center of Albany (if that) and we parked very close to the host hotel. From there we walked down the hill to the bus staging areas. The buses for the full and half marathons were parked on opposite sides of the street and volunteers made sure we got on the correct buses. I said goodbye to Shari and we headed off to grab a seat on our bus.
Nice and early on the bus
My wife was on the bus across the street
The drive from downtown Albany to the start of the race in Central Park Schenectady took about 40 minutes. It was dark when we left but by the time we arrived at the Park it was daylight. I was sitting next to someone running their first marathon. Judging by how he was talking to me about his pacing he was probably a sub 3 hour guy. Not much I could say to him in advice other than to enjoy his first race…he would be done sooner than me.
The race was a point to point race from Schenectady to Albany. The Half marathon followed the same route from the mid point of the course.
It was a small race in comparison to most of my other marathons. There were just over 1,000 runners according to the final results. There was plenty of space at the starting area and plenty of port-a-potties for all the runners. Lines were not too long. They were definitely prepared for runners.
Well prepared for their target audience
As the time got closer to the start I checked my gear bag and put on my large plastic trash bag to keep me warm. I just wish I had cut a larger hole in it to get my head through. I needed a little assistance getting through. Oops. Once appropriately bagged I went over to the start line and waited with my fellow runners. That was until they told us we were standing on the wrong side of the start line.
Ready at the start line
There were no corrals as this was a self-seeded race by the honor system. I lined up between the 3:45 and 3:55 pacers. My goal was to go sub 3:50 (my elusive goal time) and I figured if I could keep the 3:45 guy in my sight for most of the race I would come in close. Once the National Anthem had been sung and final instructions given I waited for the word to go.
Waiting for the start of the race
Just over 1,00 runners took part in the marathon
I had a plan to set off steady with a run/walk ratio of 4:30/0:30 and set off pretty comfortably. I was within sight of the 3:45 pacer the whole time I was running through the first few miles. These took us around the local neighborhoods until we reached the banks of the Hudson River where we ran on along the Mohawk-Hudson Bike-Hike Trail.
The race is a net downhill and the view from the very high point before we headed towards the river was breathtaking. It was a beautiful day, perfect conditions and the colors of the trees were amazing. I was told it was the prime weekend to see the Adirondacks in the fall. It was amazing.
The beautiful view along the Mohawk-Hudson Hike-Bike trail
We ran down towards the river past the large General Electric plant and I still had the pacer in sight. In fact although I wasn’t running with the pace group I was running with an informal group of runners who I would keep in touch with between walk breaks. The path was wide enough for 2 to 3 people to run side by side comfortably.
This was just past the General Electric plant
Finally, at around mile 9 as we encountered a slight upgrade a fellow runner came by alongside me and remarked that she was impressed that I was using the Galloway method (she was familiar with it). She said that was running a very good pace and was looking good. That was the worst thing she could have said at that particular moment. I wasn’t thinking about pace, I was just going with the flow. I knew I was maintaining my goal pace but didn’t want to think about it too much. Marathon math is no good to me.
I soon began to fall back from the pace group ahead. I was still in touch with the small group I was running with but with every walk break it was taking me longer and longer to catch up. By the time we reached mile 12 and had to run up the hill to start the second half of the course I was no longer able to see the 3:45 pace group and the small group of runners I had been running with for the last 12 miles were out of my range.
The next few miles were not my happiest but I plodded along. I had developed a side stitch running up the hill which is quite unusual for me and I could feel my heart rate had become elevated. It wouldn’t come down so quickly during walk breaks. I hit the half marathon point at 1:56:32. Still on target for sub 4 hours.
On the second half of the course you encounter a couple of small but steep downhills and also a set of railway tracks. They have timing mats set up around the tracks in case you have to stop for a train. Luckily I was able to avoid any stops. The downhills allowed you to pick up a few seconds here or there but I would soon find that a net downhill does impact your legs more than you would think.
I settled in with another group of runners. I will still on pace for a sub 4 hour marathon but I wasn’t able to maintain a steady pace per mile.
We were away from the bike trail for the next 6 miles as we ran along the highway. It was tight at the side of the road as the race organizers had set the traffic cones on the inside of the lane. The traffic was fairly heavy on the other side of the road as they were open during the time we were running. It was however perfectly safe to run. I tried to stay on the road vs the sidewalk as it was much smoother than the sidewalk which was pretty much concrete slabs which were not always even.
There were 6 miles running along the highway. I chose to run along the road as it was more even underfoot. I’m looking tired at this point.
We ran through the small town of Watervliet for a short time. I noticed that there were banners all along the route to commemorate fallen soldiers from the town from World War II. Wow, so many. I could only imagine that this community would have been deeply affected by that time. It was a nice tribute. You had to look up to see the names, battalions and dates of each person but it kept my mind off my running for a while.
As we were close to exiting the town, which was around mile 19, I was passed by the 3:55 pacer. Looking back at my stats, I was holding my own through mile 18. My slowest mile up until that point had been just over 9 minutes per mile. But by mile 19 I started to drop 30 seconds per mile. I wasn’t quite toast…I must have hit the wall but it wasn’t a total collapse.
Just after mile 20 we hit the Bike-Hike trail again. Just as we did that I was passed by the 4 hour pacer. I was determined no other pacers were going to pass me. Although I was now posting miles in the mid 10 minutes per mile I persisted along the path until I was near the finish. Around the last mile I saw an unfortunate runner on the back of an emergency vehicle. He was obviously in a lot of discomfort but he made sure he gave every runner he passed a thumbs up while he was being driven away.
Back on the Hike-Bike trail along the river as we come down to the last few miles.
Once I hit the last mile I could begin to hear the crowds at the finish. I could see downtown Albany rise above the trees. I looked at my watch. A sub 4 hour race was now out of the question but I knew I could get close to 4 hours. I buckled down and headed into the finish chute determined to cross the finish line.
I crossed the line in 4:04:46. Not my fastest but not my slowest. It is actually my 3rd fastest marathon (I do have two sub 4 hour races). At least I beat out the next pace group.
Always great to finish a marathon
The crowds were great. The Bike-Hike trail is narrow so the crowds were close on both sides which was great as you were bearing down on the finish.
Beyond the finish line I was given my medal, a mylar blanket and a bottle of water. Beyond that there was Gatorade and chocolate milk (yeah for chocolate milk). A few steps beyond was the runners village. There they had plenty of food and refreshments. Chips, bagels, water, Gatorade, bars, bananas and more chocolate milk. The Half Marathon (which my wife had run) was sponsored by Hannaford Supermarkets so I’m sure they were the provider for the post-race area.
My finisher medal
Just beyond the finish line
The athletes area beyond the finish line
The athletes area beyond the finish line
Plenty of post run refreshements for runners
Plenty of post run refreshements for runners
Plenty of post run refreshements for runners
Plenty of post run refreshements for runners
Plenty of post run refreshements for runners
There was also a tent where you could go in with your bib and get an instant race result. This was a big Boston qualifier race (for those who could). They were also selling race merchandise too.
I grabbed my instant result. Ouch…look at that second half!
What was great was that when I got to the bag check they handed me my bag without me even asking. They must have had a system when they saw someone cross the line the information (bib number) was fed to the bag check people who got the bag out the truck and ready for pickup. Genius!!!
My wife had a great race. She ran 1:53:53 for the half. Close to her PR. She had the advantage of finishing a couple of hours earlier. Both races started at the same time (8am). Our family had brought the boys to the finish line and they were there to cheer her on and see her finish. They were long gone by the time I finished the race. She went back to the house with them and she was ready and showered by the time I got there.
My wife had finished her race a couple of hours earlier
She had great crowd support
She had great crowd support
Getting back to my car was quite the challenge. I now had to walk back up the hill to my car but first I had to cross the highway back into downtown Albany. While there was a ramp up the bridge there were steps down. Yup. Steps. I’d only run a marathon!!!
Up was easy
Down…not so much
I’d cooled down quickly by then and the breeze had picked up. By the time I got back to the car I was cold and more than grateful for the fact that my car has heated seats. Once in the car I made the 20 minute drive back to the house where I took a quick shower and changed into some warm dry clothes for the journey home.
As our family had plans that afternoon (they were attending a wedding) we didn’t stay too long. We stopped at a local diner to refuel before heading back home for what turned out to be a 4 hour drive.
That tired and hungry look
I was a little stiff the next day but I put that down to sitting in the car for such a long time so soon after the race. While I have returned home from marathons on the same day before and sat for many hours in a car to do so in the past, for those races I had spent time walking around and sightseeing before jumping into the car. Sitting still is not the best way to recover from a marathon. I think that required me to have an extra couple of days extra rest.
Overall I really enjoyed the race. The course was scenic (for the most part) and the community did come out to cheer us on. I think I have to figure out my own game plan for running a marathon as this was a perfect day to run and the course was set up for a fast race. In fact, the winner broke the course record that day. My wife had also had a great race. I was for the most part having a good run until around mile 16-18 when I tired.
I would recommend the race especially if you are after a BQ. It isn’t too crowded and there are not many turns. It is a fast course. I’d wished we had spent a little extra time there after the race but we all had to get back to work and school the next day. Either way, marathon number 16 was complete and I was very happy.
On July 9th I completed my first half iron distance triathlon at Williams Lake, NY up in the Hudson Valley put on by the HITS Triathlon Series. This is a 70.3 mile event made up of a 1.2 mile swim, a 56 mile bike ride and a 13.1 mile run.
Since I started running back in the late summer of 2010 I have achieved many things I didn’t think possible. Just getting off the couch and training for a 5K was a big accomplishment for me. Slowly I built up my running endurance and 15 months after my first run I finished my first marathon, the 2011 Philadelphia Marathon. Since then I have achieved some big milestones for myself. In May this year I completed my 15th marathon and I have completed a number of the runDisney Challenge races and even an ultra distance run.
However, I never even considered a triathlon. I don’t know what made me finally decide but in late 2014 I signed up for my first triathlon, the New Jersey State Triathlon for the Olympic distance in July 2015. My problem was that I hadn’t been swimming in years and I needed a lot of work. I ended up freaking out a few weeks before the race and stepping back my distance to the sprint triathlon as I was really nervous for the swim. I did conquer the swim in my first triathlon but unfortunately the race did not turn out as planned. It was cancelled due to a lightning storm mid race. I quickly rebounded by signing up for another sprint distance a couple of weeks later and finally completed a triathlon. I followed up that after some encouragement (peer pressure) by a number of work colleagues to sign up for another local sprint triathlon which I successfully completed. Okay, my triathlons were over. Done. Complete…Or so I thought.
Competing in the Medford Lakes Colony Sprint Triathlon last August.
Some of my friends were talking about doing longer distance triathlons and a few were actively talking about half iron and full iron distance races. Around the same time they announced a new 70.3 distance race down in Atlantic City, NJ and I was considering that, however, it was a little costly and the timing didn’t work out. I also lacked the ability to swim far enough at the time (or so I thought) and I only owned a hybrid bike which I knew wouldn’t get me through a longer distance race. Speaking to my friend Bob, he mentioned that he had signed up for a smaller sized 70.3 race up in the Hudson Valley. It was also held on a Saturday so it wouldn’t take up a full weekend away and it was a good value (about the same price of a runDisney half marathon). I looked into it and thought maybe…I just had to convince my Wife. Challenge accepted!
Somewhere somehow my Wife was informed (probably by my Sister-in-law) that triathlons involved swimming in shark infested waters. I had to convince her that there were no sharks. All my previous sprint tri’s were in ponds or man-made lakes but she was still convinced there would be sharks. I explained that (at the time I signed up) the swim was held in a bend in the Hudson River and that there were no news reports of sharks in Upstate New York (bears maybe but not sharks). She then asked if I had enough life insurance and whether it was fully paid up. Seeing as my Father-in-law is our insurance agent I said we were covered and paid up. Finally she said I could do it as she knows there was no talking me out of it. So, in early November last year I signed up for my first 70.3 race, the HITS Kingston, NY Triathlon.
Now that I was signed up I found a half iron distance training plan that seemed to fit into my schedule from Endurance Works, I joined LA Fitness so I could go swimming regularly (the plan called for at least 3 swims per week, I subscribed to a swim training plan (Tri Swim Coach) and purchased a road bike (with all my saved up gift cards and a some birthday money) from my local bike store (Guy’s Bicycles). The training plan fit in perfectly between the New Jersey Marathon and the actual race. I steadily built up my swim distance and endurance in the pool and got used to sitting on that bike saddle for a few hours. By the time the race approached I felt that I was ready, nervous…but ready.
One final thing I needed to take care of was a wetsuit. I hadn’t used a wetsuit for any of the sprint distance tri’s I had done last year but based upon the distance it was recommended that I take advantage of the extra buoyancy a suit would provide me and so not wanting to jump into a big expense straight away I decided to rent a wetsuit. I ended up renting from a company based in Florida called Tri Wetsuit Rentals. The owner, Mike, was very helpful in answering my questions about sizing and suggested a couple of suits and even said that in the (unlikely) event that I lose some weight before, all I had to do was call before the suit was shipped in late June and let him know.
I had my first minor freak out when the wetsuit shipped but got lost by the US Postal service for about a week. I could see from the tracking information that it was close but it had gone via multiple post offices including my local post office more than once before it was finally delivered exactly one week before I was due to leave for the race. Mike was very helpful throughout and we had a ‘Plan B’ to send a replacement but thankfully it wasn’t required. Unfortunately I missed my last opportunity to try out the suit in an open water swim with the Bucks County Tri Club as the suit arrived too late. I wouldn’t get a chance to try the suit in the water before race day. I did watch a few YouTube videos in advance of receiving the wetsuit (some more helpful than others) on how to get into and out of a wetsuit, none of which helped prepare me for the full body workout that was putting one on without any help!!! It was a struggle the first time but after a couple of attempts I found a method that worked best for me.
For someone who has been overweight most of their life, having Orca emblazoned across your chest isn’t exactly flattering.
When my Wife saw this she had a field day with orca related jokes…
Thanks honey for all your support…
Race weekend finally arrived. I had been in touch with my friend Bob over the weeks leading up to the race and we had planned to meet at the staging area (Williams Lake) and get a quick open water swim and then grab lunch before the mandatory athletes’ meeting that afternoon.
Having taken a vacation day from work I packed up my car and headed (via a quick stop at my chiropractor for a last-minute alignment check) on my way to Kingston, NY.
On my way. 70.3 or bust!
Thankfully it was a smooth and easy ride up. About 30 minutes out from my destination I pulled over at services to grab a drink and a snack before the last leg of the journey and happened to bump into Bob who was also on his way up to meet me. I followed him the rest of the way to the race area and we quickly set about getting ready for a swim. Bob gave me a couple of tips on putting on the wet suit and we headed down to the water. It was a hot and sunny day and the water temperature was really nice. It was time for my first wet suit swim…I let Bob go first.
Arriving at the race site. This confirmed we were in the right place.
The finish line just a day away.
Williams Lake. The buoys were being set up as we arrived.
Bob went first. We planned to swim out and back to the first buoy.
Not nervous at all…
I ventured out. Bob advised me to go a little slower than I would in the pool to keep my heart rate down as you can quickly overheat in a wetsuit. Once I started swimming it did feel a little weird and there were a couple of anxious moments early on but I followed his advice and I set out to the buoy, circled around it and came back. One thing that was very evident from my swim is that my sighting in the water needs a heck of a lot of improvement…that would be evident the following day as well. As you can see from the GPS map below, this was supposed to be a simple out and back, i.e. pretty much a straight line. Not quite.
Not the best sense of direction
I did it. A little out of breath but I got it done.
Even though it was a short swim I felt comfortable in the wetsuit, the water temperature was warm but not too warm and the spring fed lake was clear (you could see your hands in front of your face!).
After we both completed the swim we stayed to talk to a few of the people setting up and looked around the staging area. This was a small race to be sure. There were 5 events going on the next day – full distance, half distance, Olympic distance, sprint distance and an open distance.
Hanging the suit up to dry
The packet pickup tent
Swim course map – Two loops around the lake
Bike route around the Ashokan Reservoir
The updated run course
A small merchandise tent who made custom shirts on request (more on that later)
When I had signed up for the race originally it was a two-day event. The swim was supposed to be in a bend in the Hudson River in Kingston, NY with the full and half distance being held on the Saturday and all other races being held on Sunday. Back in February it was announced that the location was moving to Williams Lake in Rosendale and that it would be a one day event with the races staged at 4 different times during the day (the full and half would start together).
After the swim we went to pick up our race packets. I have to say that the staff were all very friendly. The staff took time to ask if we were okay and were happy to chat and answer questions.
Bob and I headed into Rosendale and had lunch at a small cafe with lots of vegetarian options (perfect for me) and chatted over lunch. Bob showed me how to use my Garmin 910 in multisport mode which I hadn’t really tried before. We then headed back a few minutes before the Race Director started the athletes meeting.
Tom Struzzieri, the founder and CEO of HITS, was there to talk us through each leg of the event, the how to’s of the transition area and the weather outlook for the next day. He shared the plans for the aid stations and explained what would be provided even down to how many scoops of Heed would be in the pre-made water bottles on the bike rides (so that we had an idea how much nutrition to carry and could take in on the route).
The race director giving the pre-race athletes meeting
The weather overnight was forecast with a storm and lots of rain. As the race wasn’t too big most people decided not to check in their bikes the night before so we could keep all our equipment dry and bring it the next day.
After the meeting Bob and I took a walk through the transition areas and walked the start of the run course. As the course had changed from the original location I hadn’t seen the new map. The course was described as an initial run out, a loop through a cave (a bat cave…) and then a double out and back along the Wallkill Valley Rail Trail across the Rosendale Trestle Bridge.
Everyone was provided with their own individual transition box. It was spacious compared to other events I have taken part in and the stool they provided was a nice touch.
The exit from the swim to transition
The exit from transition to the bike course.
And back to transition. You can see from the debris on the side of the transition that this whole area is currently under development. This should make the site much more attractive and with added features in the coming years.
The view back into the transition at the start of the run
I hadn’t realized before now but as soon as we started walking the course we saw it was a proper trail, i.e. not paved…mud, rocks, sticks and roots…and a bat cave.
Yes…that’s a trail.
I will point out that this is ‘before’ the heavy rain that fell overnight.
Yup, that’s a cave.
They said there were bats in side.
I just looked straight ahead to the exit and didn’t look deep into the cave. No need to cause a kerfuffle with the locals…
I’m ready for the next day. I may have to change my outfit though.
Bob and I decided around 4pm to head back to our respective lodgings (I was about 15 minutes away in a hotel in Kingston and he was staying with family about 30 minutes south) and so we wished each other a relaxing evening and said we would see each other bright and early the next day.
By the way, you may notice from the above picture that I am wearing a ‘Team Up! Autism Speaks’ shirt. Since 2013 I have run a number of events for this charity and this was the first year I had missed running the Walt Disney World Marathon (or Challenge) with them. Over the last three years I have raised close to $13,000 for the cause. As this was to be a special event for me I decided to dedicate my race to continue to raise funds for them and I signed up through their Team Up! Your Way with the goal of raising $1,000. I’m pleased to say that in addition to completing my event (spoiler alert) I was able to meet my goal. As of the date of posting this recap I have raised a total of $1,092.
I headed to my hotel in Kingston and moved all my gear (not packing light) into my room on the second floor.
My two-wheeled roommate for the night.
I quickly looked through my race packet to make sure I had everything and decided to find somewhere local for an early dinner. As I was traveling on my own I asked the front desk at the hotel for places to eat and was recommended the Olympia Diner across the street. Well, I love a good diner so I was happy to head over and see what they had. Although the diner was just across the street there was a huge downpour and I ended up driving over. Glad I didn’t leave my bike outdoors overnight.
After a meal of gazpacho and spaghetti marinara, I followed my usual pre-race routine…a cookie (unfortunately not oatmeal raisin)…and headed back to the hotel and started getting ready for the next morning with a goal of getting some sleep.
My pre-race ritual. Stick with what works, right?
I unpacked all my gear for transition and laid it all out for one final check. As you will notice from the pictures below I used flash cards in my shoes to remind me of the steps I would need to remember in transition if I was not thinking too clearly in real-time the next day.
I think that’s everything.
Cut me some slack…I’m 44 with two kids. Sometimes I cannot even remember their names.
At least I didn’t have to tell myself which wrist to put it on.
With all my gear repacked I took a hot shower and put myself to bed around 8pm hoping to get as much sleep as I could.
My Fitbit shows that I got just under 7 hours of sleep, waking up just before my 4AM alarm (one of three that I had set just in case). I made myself a cup of coffee and tried to remain as relaxed as possible. I grabbed my pre-race Powerbar for breakfast and checked my emails, other messages and the weather before getting all my gear ready. As expected, my Wife sent me a message wishing me all the best in her own way.
Thanks again honey…
My training plan sent me this message to my inbox.
I headed out around 5:15AM to the race site. There had been plenty of rain overnight and you could the result of the storm as there was quite a bit of debris on the road. I was a little nervous about riding in the rain on my road bike tires. I already had concerns about the elevation of the course and making the cut off time (I hadn’t trained too much on hills). I had never ridden on wet roads before.
When I got to the race site the course had been impacted by the rain too. Although the temperature had cooled considerably the parts of the parking areas were under water. I arrived as cars and trucks were being towed out after getting stuck in the mud. I moved my car further away on some higher ground and started to unpack.
Cars being towed out.
The aftermath. I hadn’t considered what it would do to the running trail yet.
I’m here, the bike was pumped up and so was I.
On Thursday night before I left I decided at the last-minute to grab a few kitchen trash bags to pack up any wet and dirty gear after the race. I’m glad I did as there was more rain scheduled for later in the day. I’m so glad I had them with me as when I got to transition it was very wet underfoot (and squishy) and so I used one of the bags as a waterproof barrier between the ground and my transition set up. With the extra bags I wrapped up my bike and running gear to protect them from the rain that was predicted. That was a good move.
My home base for the next few hours.
I ate my Honey Stinger waffle for a last-minute fuel top up and after a couple of bathroom breaks I got my swim gear ready and my wetsuit on and made my way through the transition to the edge of the lake.
Everyone getting ready in transition.
Ready to suit up. See you in a few hours.
As we got to the beach for the final race announcements before the start the race director asked that due to the road conditions that we are extra vigilant on the bikes and announced that they had people out on the course doing clean up where ever needed so that conditions would be as best as they could get them for us for the bike.
The race was scheduled to start at 7AM. The full and half distance athletes were due to go off at the same time. The full distance athletes would swim four times around the buoys and the half distance athletes twice. My plan was to stay steady and smooth and try to keep my heart rate down. As the race started I stayed at the back of the pack and waited until almost everyone was in the water. I didn’t plan on getting into a mess right out of the gate.
The temperature was great, a couple of degrees cooler than yesterday, and my plan was to keep a steady rhythm. My sighting wasn’t perfect…I did veer of course a couple of times but it got better as I started to get into a groove. I actually found myself passing a few people. I could feel the difference that a wetsuit provides. It was a definite help. My confidence was building as I rounded the first loop and I was able to maintain the same rhythm on my second loop. I still had a couple of sighting issues but if you look at my map below I didn’t do too bad. Ultimately my distance swam was 1.4 miles not 1.2. Not sure if it was my bad sighting or the GPS trying to grab a signal which led to the difference but I was pretty happy.
The official results had me at 54:32 for the swim. I was pleased with that. Anything under an hour for that distance was a win for me. I actually got out the water and wasn’t too out of breath. As I got out the water the race had ‘strippers’, volunteers to help you get out the wetsuit. On a side note I mentioned that in the car the next day when I was talking to my wife. She was quite taken aback…however, two little voices from the back of the car then asked “Daddy, what’s a stripper?” Oops. I explained in triathlon terms. Move along. Nothing to see here.
As I got out the water there was a little light rain. I’m glad I had my gear wrapped up. I was even more glad for the stool. I was a more tired from the swim than I thought I would be. I dried off my legs and my feet, covered them in talc and popped on my Injinji socks (not the best at helping me rush through transition). 8:02 in transition. Not good but I had a 56 mile ride ahead of me and I wanted to make sure I was ready (my longest ride previous to this was 52 miles on a bike trainer). I quickly ate an energy gel and grabbed my bike and headed out.
Once out of transition and on the bike I started slowly. I started out on the small chain ring so that I wasn’t beating up my legs early into the ride. I didn’t get out of the small chain ring for the first 8 miles.
The bike route
Bike elevation chart
The first big hill (big for me) was around mile 6. Thankfully I was able to get up the hill and knew that somewhere on the back of the course I would probably make up some time coming down the same hill. My cadence and speed were not very fast for the first hour. It was really a matter of me getting up the hills for the ride around the reservoir. My goal was to maintain an average speed over 14mph so that I would make the four hour cut off. After the first hour it wasn’t looking good…13mph. I settled into a rhythm on the bike and as the course flattened out in areas I was able to make up some time. There was light rain at the time and I had to stop a couple of times to wipe clear my glasses as they were getting wetter and wetter.
Around mile 20 the heavens opened. This was rain. The real stuff. Not the wet misty type that had been going on from the start. It was a slog for the next 20 or so miles as the rain continued. For someone who was nervous about riding in the rain and worried about the bike cut off this was not a good combination.
What I can commend the race organizers for is that despite the conditions out there, each turn on the course was clearly marked out or was manned by police or volunteers who stood out in the rain the whole time. For a race with such a small field it must have seemed a very arduous task and I fully appreciate all the volunteers that day.
There were two aid stations, one of which we passed twice, for a total of three stops. The first was around mile 12 just after we had climbed a big hill. I made a quick porta potty stop there (obviously I had been hydrating to this point) and grabbed some more fluids. The aid stations provided Hammer gels, Heed and water. The second stop was around mile 30 I think. When I got there the rain was heavy. The table was set up for a bottle exchange. I stopped and poured a bottle of Heed mix in with my existing bottle of Heed and moved on as there was no point in hanging around too long with the rain.
One thing that I will take away from the ride is that I am weakest on the bike. I have definitely become more comfortable in the seat but I did most of my riding either on the bike trainer or outside in an enclosed park loop with little elevation. It showed. I need to do more hill riding and get my cadence up. It’s all too easy to ride for three hours watching movies but I really need to know how to maintain a high cadence with my legs and how and when to push. I also need to learn how to properly fuel while riding. I kept to my plan on taking in an energy gel every 45 minutes but I had to pull over each time for fear of falling off the bike. I was able to maintain my drinking every 15-20 minutes just slowing down while I used a bottle.
The route along the reservoir itself was beautiful…well at least what I could make out through the rain and clouds was beautiful. There seemed to be a lot of ‘S bend’ curves as the road travelled around the reservoir and by this point we were sharing the road with cars. We had travelled down a major road (Route 213) earlier, however, there was a wide shoulder and although cars and trucks were zipping by, there was plenty of space for riding.
I played leapfrog along the bike course with a couple of other riders almost the whole way. I didn’t catch up with many people nor was I passed too often other than by participants in the full distance race on their much more expensive and faster tri bikes.
Finally, with about 15 miles to go the rain ceased and the skies cleared a little or maybe just the clouds got thinner. Either way the last 15 miles were more comfortable weather wise. My socks inside my shoes were soaked through by the rain and so I had to endure the sound of squelching for the last hour but I figured it was a small price to pay. My average speed was now over 14.5mph so I knew I would make it under the time limit and I still had a couple of large downhill rides.
The roads were still damp on the reverse trip down to the transition area but I flew down them (white knuckled). At one point I hit over 36mph. I’m not one for riding roller coasters…and this to me felt almost as freaky. I guess that’s another thing I have to get used to in training.
I finally made it back into transition with a time of 3:48:19 (official split was 3:48:58). Not great by any means but a) not last, and b) under the cut off. I now have a baseline for a 1.2 mile open water swim and a 56 mile bike ride (although my actual GPS distance was just over 55 miles).
On returning to transition after the rain I was glad to have kept my gear wrapped up in those trash liners and was extremely pleased that I had packed a second pair of socks. My feet were soaked through and I pretty much had to repeat almost the same transition that I had after the swim (minus the wetsuit). Dry off, talc on feet and the struggle back into the Injinji socks!!! Time in second transition was 6:01. Slow but typically it would just be changing shoes and swapping my helmet for a visor. I took the opportunity to take another energy gel before heading out on the run.
I’ve done many brick work outs in training (bike to run transition) but never after a 56 mile ride nor anything longer than a 30 minute run. This was going to be interesting.
As I headed out to start the run the ground was more soaked than before. As I ran up the hill to the first aid station I was told that the ‘bat cave’ was wet and to be careful. That was an understatement. I hadn’t even reached the cave yet and I was already having to be careful with my footing. The trail was soggy and puddle filled. In fact there were a couple of places early on where I had to walk for fear of slipping in the mud. I didn’t expect to run my normal pace for the half marathon (my PR is 1:51) but I also didn’t expect my first mile split to be 11.36min/mile.
When I had walked the course the previous day I wasn’t wearing sunglasses so when I got to the cave I could kind of see my way through with the little daylight that was streaming through the entrance and exit. I was also walking. Today I was running and wearing sunglasses. BIG difference. Once I hit the cave I could barely see. I decided to take the higher ground on the left of the cave on the assumption that it might be drier as the water would flow down to the lower side. What I didn’t know about or see was that there were rocks on that side. I tripped…twice. While I didn’t wipe out I was a little shaken and pretty much ended up walking through the cave rather than run (hence the slow 1st mile).
Once out the cave I was back in the daylight and it was then just the double out and back to run. The ground was still soaked, soft, slippy and puddled in many places. My nice clean shoes didn’t stay that way for very long. I stepped in a few places where I went down into muddy water to the tops of my shoes. I had been glad I had some dry socks on to start with but they were soon beginning to get damp from the ground below.
The run was a double out and back.
I passed the first aid station again (I would see it two more times) and the folks manning the table were very cheery and supportive. Each aid station stocked water, Heed, flat Coke, chips, orange slices, candy and cookies. At first I drank only water and Heed at each station (there were another two out on the course) but as it was getting hotter and I was beginning to feel more tired so I started to dunk a cup of cold water over my head at each station too.
I passed Bob on my way out the first time. He had a much stronger ride than me and was at least 30 minutes ahead of me. Just before the third aid station we ran across the Rosendale Trestle Bridge. If you are scared of heights you may want to rethink this race. The bridge was wide, sturdy and safe but quite a way up.
Rosendale Trestle Bridge (picture from the HITS Facebook page)
An aerial shot of the bridge on a much sunnier day
It was a spectacular setting and the benefit of running mostly in the shade kept temperatures down. It wasn’t the sunniest of afternoons as there was still a lot of cloud cover but it did feel cooler in the shade.
The turnaround was about a mile past the bridge and at that point I was taking my time negotiating points on the trail that were like mud rivers. Nevertheless it was a keep moving forward mentality. By this stage I had been on the go for over 5 hours and counting.
On my way back to the first aid station (and turnaround for the second leg) I took another energy gel to give myself a boost. I needed something at that point. At the aid station one of the volunteers suggested I take in some flat Coke. I had heard that ultra runners used this as a quick sugar energy boost and as I had just taken a gel I decided to pass this time around but as I progressed on my second out and back I decided to try something new (yeah…during a race…smart!). Luckily I had no bad reaction to ingesting the flat Coke. I haven’t had any soda since quitting last August so this was a bit weird. I had sworn off soda and now I couldn’t get enough… I was still pouring water over my head at each aid station but I was now substituting the Coke for the Heed just to keep me going.
It was at this point that I started playing the math game. I had no goal time other than to finish somewhere between 7-7.5 hours and I knew that my bike leg would eat up a great deal of that time. I was now looking at my Garmin every few minutes to see how much distance and time was left. I had seen Bob on the second out and back as I was going out and he was coming back. I figured he would be done before I reached the turnaround for the second time.
As I rounded the turnaround for the last time I began to realize that I had just under 5 miles to go. I could do this. I was going to do this. Having once run 39.3 miles in 7 hours I knew I had the endurance, but that was straight running and now I was beginning to feel a soreness in my left quad and hamstring from the bike. Everything else felt good other than tired and achy shoulders. I just put one foot in front of the other, walked around the muddy parts and powered on until I saw the first aid station for the final time.
Once I hit the aid station it was just a small up and down hill to the finish line. This was not a fast half marathon for me by any means but I was going to be under 2:20 and that meant I would be under 7:20 total time. I just had to make it another half mile to the finish.
Rounding the corner to the finish I could see Bob standing by the finish line and he had his camera out taking photos of me coming in. I ran up and gave him a fist bump and turned towards the finish line where to my surprise my Wife’s Aunt had driven down with her family from Albany (about an hour north) to meet me at the finish line. What a wonderful gesture. Totally unexpected. I got so excited I jumped high in the air as I crossed the finish line. Having family and friends meet me at the finish really lifted my spirits and took away any tiredness I was feeling.
Bob took this photo of me running into the finish
Woohoo….70.3 DONE!!! (Thanks for the photo Francine)
Hey, I know you!
Let me stop my Garmin so I can give you a High Five
I arrived during the awards ceremony so, as had been my luck all through the event, I missed having a photo taken by the official photographer. Luckily, between Bob and his wife Francine and my family I was able to get some photos at the finish line. A volunteer handed me my medal and a bottle of water and I stopped to catch my breath and take some finish line photos with everyone.
Nice to have a family meet me at the finish (Thank you Nadine, Steve and Benjamin)
Bob and I. He looks a little more rested than me.
Bob making sure I saved my multisport event file.
My official finish time was 7 hours 15 minutes. Not great…but not last. I did my first half iron distance triathlon and finished smiling. That’s enough for me. Will I do another 70.3? Probably, but I’m going to enjoy this one for a long time.
I said goodbye to Bob who had been waiting to see me finish and went over to transition to pack up my gear. My family wanted to take me to lunch (a late lunch) before I had to drive home. There wasn’t much food left by the time I had finished. I was told they were going to order more food (pizza) within the hour for the final finishers and for the full distance finishers. I decided that I would be better off having a full meal to refuel.
So much for my fancy shoes…
…and fancy socks. Just a little muddy
In transition I used the changing tents to put on some dry clothes. Those trash bags came in handy as I threw all my wet gear and towels into them to carry to the car. Before I left transition I sat down and took it all in. I had just finished my first 70.3. It was a different feeling than finishing my first marathon. That was a runners high which lasted days. This was more a mix of joy and relief. I tried to explain to someone a couple of days later that sometimes when I run I can zone out and just get into a rhythm until I am near the finish line. With the triathlon it’s a matter of focus, concentration and technique. You cannot really zone out doing a triathlon. You’ll drown or crash!!! I’m pleased to say I did neither.
I quickly called my parents in the UK to let them know I was done. I’m 44 and I still call my mother to let her know I’m okay 🙂
Once I was dressed, the car packed and the bike racked we headed to Kingston where we had a late lunch/early dinner at an Irish pub. Those were the best fish and chips I’d had all day! I drank lots of water to rehydrate and a few cups of coffee to keep me awake before I said goodbye to the family and headed for my three-hour drive home…with a HUGE smile on my face.
The guy on the left in 2010 has just finished a half iron distance traithlon in 2016
I really enjoyed the event. HITS put on a professional, supportive and friendly event. For anyone dipping their toes into longer distance triathlons I would recommend one of their events. Their communication was responsive in the weeks leading up to the event, the staff were friendly the whole weekend and it was just a relaxed informal atmosphere the whole weekend. They took care of the athletes and it was good value for money compared to some of the other big race organizations out there. Check out their events list.
Oh, by the time I got to the finish line the merchandise tent was being taken down. I wasn’t able to get a finisher shirt that I had spoken to the supplier about the day before. I was waiting until after so not to jinx myself. The owner gave me his card and told me to call him the following week and he would customize any shirts that I wanted and ship them to me. Pricing was very reasonable so I followed up and ordered a customized long sleeve and short sleeve ‘70.3 Finisher’ shirt. Nice.
That night I had a pretty good long deep sleep.
Something like this. Even my kids let me sleep in.
In my inbox the next day was this message from my training plan. I didn’t need telling twice 🙂
Thank you for sticking with me for this (longer than normal) race recap. At least this took you less than 7 hours to read.