Mohawk Hudson River Marathon – race recap

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On October 9th I participated in my 16th marathon, the Mohawk Hudson River Marathon in Albany, NY.

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

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

Arriving at the expo

Marathon packet pickup

Marathon packet pickup

Half Marathon packet pick up

Half Marathon packet pickup

Ready or not

Ready or not

A map of the course (both the full and the half)

A map of the course (both the full and the half)

There were some very reasonable prices for marathon gear

There were some very reasonable prices for marathon gear

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A small but busy marathon expo

A small but busy marathon expo

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

Post expo and ready for race day

Meeting up with family

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) is priceless

The face on my little guy (in the yellow dress with the bunny) is priceless

I'm lucky to have this little lady

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?

Was this a potential PR cookie?

Flat Ian set out for the next day

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

Nice and early on the bus

My wife was on the bus across the street

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.

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

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

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

Waiting for the start of the race

Just over 1,00 runners took part in the marathon

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

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

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.

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.

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

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

My finisher medal

Just beyond the finish line

Just beyond the finish line

The athletes area beyond the finish line

The athletes area 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

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 results. Ouch...look at that second half!

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

My wife had finished her race a couple of hours earlier

She had great crowd support

She had great crowd support

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

Up was easy

Down...not so much

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

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.

Thank you for reading.

July 2016 – Month in review

July was a great month. I achieved things that a few years ago I never would have thought possible. Time for a quick recap.

July 2016 - Nike+ Summary

July 2016 – Nike+ Summary

My running mileage looks low this month compared to my usual months of training. Indeed it was probably my lowest training month of running in a long time. I did however more than make up for that in total distance with swimming and running. My Garmin data below shows total monthly mileage of just under 308 miles made up of 9.8 miles of swimming, 190.6 miles of biking and 106.8 miles of running.

july

July 2016 – Garmin Connect Summary

The first couple of weeks of the month were tapering into the event, focusing mainly on swim and bike (I think I’ve got the running thing down). I had such an amazing experience competing in and completing my first half iron distance (70.3 miles) triathlon at the HITS Hudson Valley Triathlon. You can read the race recap here. I followed this up just two weeks later with the New Jersey State Triathlon to complete my first Olympic distance triathlon which you can read about here.

With all this talk about triathlons I was invited to be a guest to talk about my transition into the sport for an episode of the Team Shenanigans Podcast. A great bunch of folks who I got to know through the Mickey Milers running team. You can hear the episode here.

On 4th July my family all participated in the Washington Crossing Revolutionary Run in Washington Crossing Park, PA. My Wife and Father in law ran the 10K and my boys and I ran the 1 mile fun run. It was a hot morning but we had fun and after some refreshments (donuts) we had a nice fun family afternoon at the pool in our development following by a nice BBQ at home with the extended family. A good holiday weekend.

 

Happy 4th of July from The Running Crew

Happy 4th of July from The Running Crew

Mission Accomplished.

Mission Accomplished.

Later in the month I got to enjoy my Fathers Day present, Paul McCartney in concert at Citizens Bank Park in Philadelphia. Awesome!

Thank you Sir Paul

Thank you Sir Paul

So yes, July was a good month. I also have some new hardware on my office desk. Well earned. Makes me smile every time I look at it.

Some new desk hardware

Some new desk hardware

I know this recap is a little late (hey, it’s still not September) so thanks for hanging in there with me and thanks for reading.

 

2016 New Jersey Marathon – race recap

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Back on Sunday May 1st my wife and I ran the 2016 Novo Nordisk New Jersey Marathon. This was the third time running the event for me (I ran in back in 2013 and 2014) and the first time running this event for my wife. We were looking for a spring marathon and also somewhere less hilly than our recent marathons together (Baltimore, Pittsburgh and Marine Corps) so this fit the bill.

Having not run the event since 2014 I wasn’t familiar with some of the changes to the race that had taken place since. I know that the sponsor had changed since I ran last time and that there was a new look to the website but I wasn’t sure (I am still not sure) if it was the same race director. What I had liked about this race in the past was the regular communication from the race director. Starting around 8 weeks out there would be a weekly email coming every Sunday evening leading up to the race. This year I counted about 2 the whole time. Nevertheless, the biggest change and the one that would actually be a factor for this year was a change they had made the previous year. When I had run in 2013 and 2014, the half marathon started about an hour before the marathon. Starting last year the half and full started together. It would be interesting to experience the change.

As I work not too far from Oceanport, NJ I headed over to the expo on the Friday evening after work. The expo was held as in previous years at the start location for the race, Monmouth Park Racetrack. After parking and walking into the pavilion the set up was the same as in prior years. Head through to bib pickup, then t-shirt pickup and then through the official merchandise (none bought this year) and through the small vendor expo.

The expo was held at Monmouth Park Racetrack

The expo was held at Monmouth Park Racetrack

 

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The expo was held at Monmouth Park Racetrack

 

Ready for bib pick up

Ready for bib pick up

 

Bib pick up for the half and full marathon

Bib pick up for the half and full marathon

 

Bibs in hand and ready to go

Bibs in hand and ready to go

 

Men's and women's cut t-shirts were provided

Men’s and women’s cut t-shirts were provided

 

I prepaid for parking at the start line so I was set for race day

I prepaid for parking at the start line so I was set for race day

 

There was an area of official race gear although I left empty handed

There was an area of official race gear although I left empty handed

I wasn’t looking for anything in particular but I did stop by a shoe vendor as they had stacks and stacks of Brooks shoes. I wanted to try on the Brooks Adrenaline GTS 16’s to see how they fit as the sizing between the 14’s and 15’s had changed and I had subsequently had to change my regular sizing. I was able to find a pair my size so now I know for when I’m ready to buy new shoes, (which is never too far off).

I'm sure they will have one pair my size

I’m sure they will have one pair my size

Not much else for me to see at the expo although it was good to bump into my fellow Mickey Miler, Tammy, who was working the Bondi Band booth.

A jockey selfie for good luck

A jockey selfie for good luck

 

My gear all set up the night before

My gear all set up the night before

I usually take a room in a nearby hotel for this race but due to logistics and the imminent birth of my nephew (who came two weeks later…not so imminent it seems) we decided to drive in on the morning of the race. Our regular after school baby sitter came to our house just before 5am on Sunday as we were about 75 minutes or so away from the start.

In past years I had always arrived after the half marathon runners had left so the roads into the starting location were pretty empty. This year, however, because everyone was starting at the same time it took me almost 30 minutes to drive the last 2 miles. Crazy. One fortunate break was that as we turned off the main highway and were stuck in a major backup the local police moved a barrier right next to us and waved us into a back entrance to the park. Thank goodness for that…I needed a bathroom break pretty badly.

A jockey fist bump for good luck!!!

A jockey fist bump for good luck!!!

We headed to the pavilion which was where we encountered our first slightly unpleasant surprise. In past year I had arrived after the half marathon had started and the inside of the pavilion was only left to marathon runners. There were plenty of seats to relax in, there were no lines for the ‘indoor’ bathrooms and generally we all stayed in the pavilion until about 15 minutes before the race. Not this year. With the half marathoners and full marathoners starting at the same time it was pretty much standing room only. The lines for the men’s bathroom were long, but not as long as the line for the women’s bathroom that stretched almost the length of the pavilion. Wow. My wife decided (as she was about 30 places back from the front of the line) that we would try to make our way to bag check and she would line up to use the restrooms outside while I checked our gear bags.

As we were approaching the bag check they were giving us only a few minutes before they were closing the trucks. I met up with another Mickey Miler, Elvin, at the bag check and we went to find my wife who was still waiting in line. Usually at this stage I would be in the corral waiting to go. In prior years I was in Corral C or D and was there before Corral A was released. This year, we were still in the bathroom lines by the time they had released Corral C. I’ve never been in that situation before. There were just too many people compared to the facilities they had available.

Meeting up with Elvin outside of bag check

Meeting up with Elvin outside of bag check

 

Finally made it into our corral

Finally made it into our corral

 

Ready for the word to go

Ready for the word to go

In addition to scrambling to get into the Corral (I was in Corral E and I took everyone in with me) it had started to rain. There we were all wrapped up in our trash bags (Elvin wore a rain jacket) and we still had 26.2 miles ahead of us in this weather. We decided to all run together as long as we could. We were going to use a Run/Walk ratio of 3:00/0:30 and see how we felt.

The first few miles were through local neighborhoods around the race track and it was nice to run through the streets as people had come out to their front yards to cheer us on despite the weather conditions. It was raining lightly, not too hard but enough to get you wet. My wife, Elvin and I maintained very steady pace and were able to stay together despite a little more crowding due to running with the half marathoners. It wasn’t ‘Disney’ congested but more than I had experienced in the past for this race.

Around mile 6 I had to take a bathroom break just after we passed the water stop. I thought it would be quick as there were 4 port-a-potties. Was I wrong? Almost 5 freaking minutes waiting in the rain!!!! I didn’t want to run on as this is a smaller race and I hadn’t seen many bathroom stops within the first 6 miles. My wife was very patient…very…(more on that later).

With that over and done with we ran on. Elvin was still with us and we ran across the first of two small water way bridges and then made our way into Long Branch. Along the side of the road I remembered that there were usually signs with inspirational or funny quotes. They were there again this year but due to the rain they had either sagged or split (they were paper based) due to being so wet. It was a shame but there was nothing that can be done about that. We just got our heads down and plodded along trying to avoid any puddles in the road.

The first part of the course had taken us from Oceanport through Monmouth Beach and then into Long Branch. As we approached mile 11 the half and full marathon routes began to split into two lanes as the half marathoners would turn back up the boardwalk to the finish line in Long Branch while the full marathoners soldiered on. Just after the split we entered the town of Deal. This was the start of the long out and back part of the course. It’s essentially a straight run down to Ocean Grove from here through the towns of Deal, Allenhurst, Locharbor, Asbury Park and Ocean Grove before coming all the way back up the through the same towns to the finish in Long Branch.

The course map that was displayed at the expo

The course map that was displayed at the expo

Around mile 13 as we were running through Deal we saw the leaders making their way back to the finish. They looked strong despite the conditions. Some were dressed as though they had expected warmer temperatures. We were a little chilly in our multiple layers as we saw these runners in their running singlets coming the opposite way. Heck…I was wearing gloves the whole of the course.

Deal, NJ is home to some really impressive houses. There was lots of eye candy to distract you as you ran down. By this stage the runners had started spreading out and as there were less full marathoners in the event we found ourselves pretty much running silently on except for supporters around the aid stations. There were a couple of runs around inland ponds which took us off the straights and gave us something different to look at but it was mostly running along Ocean Avenue through each town.

Around mile 15 the rain started to come down heavier. It was the ‘wet enough to soak you’ type of rain. It wasn’t hard rain but it was not the lighter stuff we had run the first 15 miles in. Oh well, we were pretty committed to this thing by now so no choice but to push on.

As we approached Asbury Park we stopped to take a picture outside of the ‘Stone Pony’. Famous for its links to Bruce Springsteen in his early years and other local New Jersey bands. Asbury Park is famous for its boardwalk and in the past there had been some entertainment out on the course here. With today’s weather conditions there was none of that to be seen.

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Once through Asbury Park you start to sense that the turnaround has to be somewhere near. From my recollections of this race it is one of the most elusive turnarounds. You run around a street corner and think it must be there only to see another street and then another corner and then another street. It was well tucked away. Having run this race twice before I was familiar with the scenario but I heard plenty of people around me asking where on earth the turnaround was. I had mentioned to my wife and Elvin that it does seem to be a bit of a tease but it did exist! Finally we hit this tiny little cone in the middle of the street and turned around. It was just after mile 19.

We were still using our run/walk ratio and mostly concentrating on avoiding the ever-increasing puddles as we ran. Elvin stayed with us until about mile 21 when he told us to go ahead as his legs were beginning to cramp up. We ran on the boardwalk for a short time before returning back onto the road.

There were not too many people around us at this stage but we were still moving at a nice pace. We started to see the back of the pack as they were approaching mile 14 and saw the pace wagon driving slowly behind them. We cheered them on and hoped they would make it. The rain had let up for now and we were just running to get home. My wife was feeling good. In all our marathons together (this is her 7th) she has always begun to struggle with hip and/or knee pain around mile 20. So far so good! It may have been because this course was relatively flat but either way, neither of us was unhappy or uncomfortable.

As we approached Long Branch we picked up the pace a little. We saw the boardwalk and knew that the end of the race was near (or so it seemed). At this point the rain started again steadily. Yup, the ‘getting you more wet than before’ type of rain. The last mile or so is all on the boardwalk. I was a little concerned about footing with the boards being so wet but we seemed to get along fine which was a relief.

The one thing I remember about this race is that if you think you can see the finish line then you are wrong. It is tucked away out of sight and you do not really see it until just after you hit mile 26. Once we saw this we stepped up the pace again and ran in home. Another marathon done. It was wet but no one was hurting and we were both happy and relieved in a time of 4:44. My wife even PR’d by 45 seconds…yup including the 5 minute port-a-pottie stop where she waited for me, and yes…she certainly let me know her feelings about that 😦  I personally had a PR….my wife didn’t shout at me or get mad at me for the whole 26.2 miles!!! Our previous record was 22 miles before I knew to avoid making eye contact. This was a big win 🙂

Once through the finish line we were awarded our medals and handed some water and Gatorade. It was beginning to rain harder and as we had stopped running we very quickly started to get cold and start shivering. There were no mylar blankets at the finish line for runners. Granted, in the past it was a beautiful sunny day and none were needed nor expected.

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We quickly made our way to the gear trucks where we had packed our bags with dry clothes. They had changing tents alongside the trucks but we decided it would be pointless to change into dry clothes as we still had a long walk from the finish line to the buses which would shuttle us back to the start line. As we started walking to the buses I saw Elvin just crossing the finish line. As we had already passed the exit to the race area we figured he’d need his time to recover and we headed on towards the buses.

Once on the bus it was nice and warm. Steamy, given everyone’s wet conditions. At one point I turned to talk to my wife beside me and water poured off my hat onto her. It was funny from where I was sitting at least. Finally we pulled back up to Monmouth Park Racetrack. The bus had parked on the opposite side of the pavilion so that meant we had to walk a short distance (on marathon legs) back to the parking lot. It is a very steep step down from a bus after a marathon!!! Once outside we were immediately shivering. The rain hadn’t let up and we still had to walk to the car.

On the bus heading back to the starting line

On the bus heading back to the starting line

Finally we made it. After switching on the engine in the car and turning on the heat we changed out of our wet clothes and tried to warm up. My wife was a particular shade of blue at this point. We handed our pre-paid parking pass at the exit and headed home. We were keeping a close eye out for somewhere to stop for coffee and lo and behold we came across a Dunkin’ Donuts drive through where we got ourselves coffee and a bagel. The timing worked out as we had just left Dunkin’ and were at the point where the road splits between the direction home for us and the other back up towards NYC when Elvin pulled up in his car next to us. That was a nice surprise. We said our goodbyes and went off in our respective directions home.

Overall it was a good day. I had great fun with my wife and with Elvin. Running together made up for the conditions as it was a great distraction for us all. I was a little upset that I wasn’t able to share my 2013 and 2014 experiences with my wife due to both the weather and the change in the logistics at the start of the race. I enjoyed the course as before but after 3 out of 4 years running this event I think I may take a break and look for another venue for a spring race.

Once back home I had the best ever hot shower. Unlike our normal jam-packed weekend activities, the weather didn’t improve much and it is very rare for us to just stay home and relax. This was probably the first marathon out of the 15 I have completed where I went to lie down once I was showered and dressed. While I didn’t fall asleep I kept off my feet and just rested. That was nice. Rare, but nice.

The marathon finisher medal

The marathon finisher medal

 

I like the way they list all the towns we ran through on the back of the medal

I like the way they list all the towns we ran through on the back of the medal

Apologies for the late post of this race recap. Not sure if it was really as a result of the weather conditions from the race but I was laid low with a sinus infection for a few days after the race and as I recovered from that I threw my back out. I was laid flat for another few days and I was unable to do any training for 9 days. Very frustrating but now I am back on the road after the minor setback and training towards my upcoming triathlons.

Thank you for reading.

2016 Rutgers UNITE Half Marathon – Race recap

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

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

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

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

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Hard to tell the difference I know!!

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

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You know when you have arrived on campus

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

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

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

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Meeting up with John pre-race.

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

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

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

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

 

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Always a stylish choice. Black goes with everything.

 

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I made it a little closer to the front.

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

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

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2016 Course – more time at the back of the campus

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2015 Course – more time in the park

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

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

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My first half splits.

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

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

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Doing my best Flyin’ Hawaiian pose.

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

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

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

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

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

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

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It was a great run in to the finish line.

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Happy to be done. I worked hard.

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The medal was so much nicer this year.

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

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My official finish time.

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

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

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Post race refreshments were restricted to runners only.

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

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

 

 

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

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Definitely earned this today.

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Some nice views of the post race area.

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A great place to rest up and relax post race.

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

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

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

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

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

Thanks for reading. Sorry about all the Magnum references 🙂

March 2016 – Month in review

March

Nike+ Summary – March 2016

My total mileage for the month was 200 miles. Although my Nike+ summary says 150.5 there seems to be an error in the site 😦 as the total running actually adds up to 163. I managed to knock out 1.6 miles from the limited time I spent in the pool this month and I put down 36 miles on the bike (unfortunately indoors on the bike trainer only).

This was a big month for marathon training for the upcoming New Jersey Marathon on May 1st. Although I still have one long run left in April before the taper, March saw me crank out three long runs of 17, 18 and 20 miles. I’ve managed to wear down two pairs of shoes so I’m getting ready to break in the new shoes for the marathon soon, taking my last two pairs of Brooks Adrenaline GTS 15‘s out. Post marathon I’ll be looking to do some more runs in the Altra Provision 2.0s and looking to move up to the Brooks Adrenaline GTS 16’s. The Brooks has really been my ‘Go To Shoe’ (GTS) since I started running marathons back in 2011.

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Breaking out the last pairs of Brooks Adrenaline GTS 15’s to break in for the marathon.

At the beginning of the month we found out the results of the New York City Marathon lottery. My wife was accepted but for me it’s another year with no entry. I actually had signed up for the Princeton Half Marathon on the same day prior to entering the lottery but now that my wife is running I will forego the race so I get a chance to travel, support and cheer for her on race day. I’m looking forward to going and I’m planning how I can crisscross the subway system to see her as many times as possible. I will probably look at the lottery again for another year.

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Maybe next year.

With not getting into New York City this year I looked to a Fall race that my wife and I had discussed as a backup plan. We are now going to be heading to Albany, NY in October to run the Mohawk Hudson River Marathon. My wife will be running the half marathon that day as it fits nicely into her training plan for New York City. We have family up there so are planning to take the boys and making a weekend out of it.

With my calendar now all confirmed for the year (plus signing up again for the 2016 Philadelphia Marathon when registration opened up on April 1st) I was able to update my training plan for the year. You can follow the link to my insanity here.

This month I finally got fitted and took ownership of my new road bike for the upcoming HITS Hudson Valley Triathlon this July. The folks over at Guy’s Bicycles near me were really helpful in finding the right bike for me for the right needs and at the right price I could afford, a 2015 model Scott CR-1 30. They took time to explain the different options available and they fitted me for my specifications on the bike swapping out any components that needed to be adjusted to fit me just right. I’m looking forward to getting outdoors on this once the weather improves and I have enough early morning daylight hours to ride outside before work.

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The fitting process included adjusting the seat height, angle of the seat post/saddle and the reach over the frame. They did replace the saddle….

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See? I did leave with a saddle.

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Ready to roll. Yes, my license plate does say 007.

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Back home and ready to ride.

Mid month I had to take a trip down to McLean, VA to do some work out one of our offices. It was an opportunity to run outside again as it was a little warmer down there. The office is on a very large corporate campus near Tysons Corner, VA and my hotel was right next door. I planned out my routes and each and every day and still I got completely lost. It was only the sight of my office building (beautifully lit from the outside) that I was able to locate my hotel each day. Headlamp running does have its drawbacks, especially for the geographically challenged.

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This was my guiding light home every morning. Easy to spot and much more impressive when seen for real.

Also this month I ran the Philadelphia Phillies Charities 5K with my wife. She has run the event every year since it began and this was a first time run for me. It was a chilly morning but it was a fantastic run. We ran together and hit a pretty good pace. The swag from the race was impressive with each of us getting a shirt, a medal and two tickets each for a pre-season game, one of which we were able to swap for a later game in the season. We also got a chance to get onto the field to take a few pictures after the race. We earned our pretzel that day.

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Pre race. Trying to keep warm and wearing as much red clothing as I could manage. Go Phillies.

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Medal, schmedal. I got a pretzel!!

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Happy with our pace. We ran step for step together.

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And finished with a fun photo opp.

I got a package late in the month from my buddy, fellow Mickey Miler and host of The Marathon Show, Eddie McCoy. In addition to all his training, work, life and other activities he has managed to plan for and provide team shirts and jerseys for our running team the Mickey Milers. Looking forward to wearing my new long sleeve jersey (although hoping for warmer weather to so I don’t have to wear it too often).

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Hmmm….wonder what this is?

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Yup. They got that right. Mickey Milers purple and yellow.

Earlier in the month I was invited to participate in a recording of the ‘Let’s Run Disney’ podcast to discuss my ‘Goofy in a Day’ experience from last May. The podcast was released at the end of the month and you can get to the link from here. It was fun to talk about the experience and it was nice to be a part of the show.

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Thanks for taking the time to read my month in review. I appreciate you stopping by each month. March was very busy but there is plenty to look forward to this year with the upcoming New Jersey Marathon coming sooner than later.

As a reminder, I will be participating in the HITS Hudson Valley Triathlon this July and raising funds for Autism Speaks through this event. If you would like to sponsor me you can get to the sponsorship page here. I appreciate your support.

Autism Speaks

January 2016 – Month in review

January 16

January 2016 – Nike+ Summary

My Nike + Summary shows 121 miles. There was no cycling or swimming this month. Not sure why but probably because of travel, weather and general fatigue and no races I took it rather easy. Still, managed to knock out 121 miles.

We had just returned from our Florida trip when I had to fly out to Arizona. I think the drive time from Florida to Pennsylvania and the transcontinental flying finally caught up with me combined with the change in temperatures (winter finally arrived) sending me to my basement treadmill for my runs.

I think the major ‘funk factor’ in this was the fact that this was the first Walt Disney World Marathon Weekend I have missed since 2012. I had to live vicariously through all my friends and fellow Mickey Milers team mates Facebook and Twitter posts. I was itching to be there so bad this year but the logistics of home life, work travel and also costs just made it an impossibility this year. Sad, but there will be other times. I’m focusing on my first half ironman triathlon distance this year so really cutting back on racing and focusing on the training plan…boring…but hopefully fruitful come July 🙂

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Trying my best to not feel left out…with my 2015 Half Marathon shirt and my extremely overpriced 2013 Marathon coffee cup

With the weather forcing me indoors I actually have the opportunity to try transitioning to Altra Zero Drop shoes. I would have liked to try this previously but there is a 3-6 week adpating period where you wear the shoes progressively more and more each run but switch back to your regular shoes mid-run. Generally when I am running outdoors I am not looking to carry a spare pair of shoes everywhere with me. Indoors at least I can put the shoes next to the treadmill and easily switch mid-run. We shall see how this goes. I am trying to transition  from my Brooks Adrenaline GTS shoe with a 12mm drop (from heel to toe) to the Altra Provision shoe with a 0mm drop. It will take time I’m sure and I will probably have a few strange aches and pains during transition. We shall see how this works out. So far I’ve managed to get up to 6 miles. A way to go if I’m going to be into these shoes before the New Jersey Marathon on May 1st. The key is to getting to the start line injury free. If it isn’t working out I’ll be running in the Adrenalines.

So, as I’m saying that I will be registering for less races, I did manage to sign up for 2 first time races for me this year. The first is the Philadelphia Phillies 5K race at Citizens Bank Park on March 26. I figure a 5K during the marathon training will be a good time to see how my speed is going. Not sure it will be a fast 5K given the nature of the race but I will see nearer the date. Also, I signed up for the Princeton Half Marathon in early November. My wife ran this race last year and I was really jealous of her ‘squirrel’ medal so it’s my turn this year! It’s in November after my triathlon season so I can get away with my previous comment about running less and concentrating on the triathlon 🙂

One day the squirrel will be mine...

One day the squirrel will be mine…

Oh, I almost forgot, I registered again for the Rutgers UNITE Half Marathon. It fits nicely into my training plan and it was a nice race for me last year.

My wife and I registered for the lottery for the New York Marathon. We will find out if we get in together in early March. I figure if either one of us gets in we should run it regardless of whether the other does or doesn’t. It is such a big race and the lottery is just that…a lottery. Who knows if we will get selected. It’s a big race but it’s definitely a bucket list one. I figure it’s a one and done type of race because of the size of the field and the logisitics of the weekend just sound a bit too much for me. I’m sure it will be fun and I am hoping that we both get in. I’ll let you know 🙂

Both my wife and I are in training for the New Jersey Marathon on May 1st. The weather has driven us both to the treadmill unfortunately. Looking forward to getting out whenever we can but making sure to be sensible and safe. No point in running in the cold and icy conditions if we don’t really have to. Better to be safe inside. The conditions in May will not be replicated in January that’s for sure.

We had the first big snow of the year…and it was big. On top of my long run that day (11 miles on the treadmill) I was outside shoveling snow for over 4 hours. Quite a workout but I prefer swimming and biking as my cross training!!!

My youngest in the snow. Reminiscent of Hoth...

My youngest in the snow. Reminiscent of the planet Hoth…I think he is looking for his tauntaun.

I hit another personal milestone this month as I made it past the 8,000 mile mark since I started recording my workouts back in September 2010.

January 19

I’d been running about 5-6 weeks using a ‘Couch to 5K’ program before I started logging my activities so this is pretty much from the beginning. So now I’m onto the next milestone. In that time I’ve completed 19 half marathons and 14 full marathons and countless other events. I’m feeling pretty proud of how far I’ve come. I think this is also going to be a big year for me and January was a good start to 2016’s adventures.