Catching up…at 88 miles per hour!!!

This is going to be a quick and rapid catch up as I can only use the ‘Wayback Machine’ for a short time.

With all the training that I was doing for my July half iron distance triathlon I let the blog updates sit on the back burner for a while. Something about the 3am wake ups and two a day work outs that finished around 9pm made me avoid logging on late at night. Strap in tight…this is going to be a very quick update.

June

Garmin Connect – June 2017

This was by far the biggest month of training for my half iron distance triathlon. I logged 398 miles (107 running/279 cycling/12 swimming).

Back in early June I ran in the Freedom Mortgage 5K. I was right in the middle of my triathlon training so I was feeling fit. Given that I had run this event well last year I was looking forward to returning. Also, this is the event that my wife was the race director for. As was the case last year I came down with the boys and my father in law. The race course was certified this year (it was long last year). I ran hard and ended up running the exact time as my previous 5K PR (from back in 2012). I was really pleased. I placed 1st in my age group and 15th overall. I earned my donuts that day.

My finish time for the 5K

We made it a family affair again this year.

At the end of the month my wife finally convinced me to participate in The Color Run. I have been hesitant to participate in these races although my wife has run the past few years. I only agreed to do this as we were going to run as a family. At the end of the day it was a fun time and my kids had a blast…until we got home and we had to scrub them clean in the shower.

Running through the Phillies stadium during The Color Run

In the midst of it all…

I guess this says it all

June was a really intense training month for the triathlon and I was more than happy to start my taper at the end of the month.

July

Garmin Connect – July 2017

The above calendar tells quite a story. In the end I logged 157 miles for the month (32 running/121 cycling/4 swimming).

July was my big event month. I had been training hard for the Rev3 Williamsburg triathlon and was looking forward to having the whole family down with me in Williamsburg for the weekend. As you can read here, the race didn’t really turn out as planned but it definitely was a memorable experience.

The rest of the month was pretty much me being sidelined. I ended up having to cancel my race entry to this year’s New Jersey State Triathlon. I had to rest my body as best I could. I tried running late in the month but I was a little too ambitious. I had to dial it back. However, I found a good compromise by using a sling and slowing my pace down…. a lot!!!

How I felt getting started again

End of July sling running

August

Garmin Connect – August 2017

Albeit very slowly, I logged 143 miles this month. Running only. It will be a while before I’m back in the pool and I’m staying away from the bike for now.

My actual training plan for this year’s Philadelphia Marathon began in the last week of July. By August I was just getting into the early stages of the plan and struggling a bit with pace. I would still be wearing my sling and by the end of each run I would be hot and tired due to the heat and humidity. I still gutted it out though. We had our family vacation in Myrtle Beach, SC during the third week of August. I was up early to beat the heat every day (not that you could really escape it) and despite my lack of pace I was able to pretty much stay on my training plan. By the end of the month I was running without the sling. Taking it easy still but getting back to form.

Free winging it

September

Garmin Connect – September 2017

This month I logged 182 miles of running.

September primarily consisted of buckling down to marathon training. I had chosen Hal Higdon’s Intermediate II training plan which is slightly higher mileage than the Intermediate I which I have mostly used. I thought following all the triathlon training I would be in a better position to do the higher intensity training. I hadn’t planned on my accident back in July and so hadn’t gone back to update my annual training plan. I figured I could do a couple of extra miles here or there. My mid-week runs are higher than on the Intermediate I plan and coming up in October I will be doing three 20 mile runs vs two which would be my usual training for a marathon. September therefore had pretty high mileage.

It was a very warm month with no break in the weather that one would expect for early fall so my pace was slower than would normally be.

During the month my wife and I participated in the Philadelphia Rock ‘n’ Roll Half Marathon. This year however we didn’t immediately sign up for the 2018 race so we shall see if this will be on our plan for next year.

October

Garmin Connect – October 2017

This was the big month of training as I get ready for the 2017 Philadelphia Marathon. I logged 203 miles of running.

I spent a lot of time on my feet running around. This month included the three 20 mile runs I mentioned earlier with three 50 mile weeks out of the month. I didn’t have much time to sit back and relax but all in all I was glad to get through the month uninjured and ready for the taper.

One change that occurred this month was that I finally changed out of my regular shoe after 6 years in the same type (Brooks Adrenalines – I’d worn models GTS 11 through GTS 17). I had been struggling a while in this shoe and the last two iterations (the GTS 16 and 17) just didn’t have the same fit and feel. However it takes a leap of faith sometimes to try something new.

I read a review about the updated Saucony Omni 16 and decided to give it a go. I took them out on a 5 mile run and they felt fine. I was already experiencing difficulty in the Brooks shoe and to some extent my feet were feeling some pain points at the end of runs. On the day of my second 20 miler of the month I had run about a half mile before I had to turn around and go home. There was pain on the top of my foot from the Brooks overlays. I took a risk and ran in the Saucony’s after only wearing them for 5 miles the day before. They came through the challenge as did I. The shoe profile is slightly different (there is a lower drop in the Saucony vs the Brooks) but the stability was there when I needed it.  Needless to say I return the two unopened boxes of Brooks and replaced them with the Saucony’s. Fingers crossed this is the right move for me. So far so good. I ran the rest of the month in them including the third and final 20 miler.

Thanks for sticking with me on this. Time to hand the Wayback Machine to its real owners and get…

 

December 2016 – Month and Year in review

December is over and another year has been completed. 2016 was a year of accomplishments that I never thought possible and was very rewarding.

Looking briefly at my December stats I completed 143 miles. I also managed to finally get back on the bike (albeit indoors on the trainer) and managed to make it into the pool a couple of times. It’s back to work over the winter. Hopefully this will pay off in the summer, however there is still the March marathon that my wife and I are training for. It’s going to be a long winter of training but all for a good reason.

Nike+ Summary - December

Nike+ Summary – December

You will notice from the Garmin data below that I have the ‘scale’ symbol from December 1st. I bought the Garmin Index Smart Scale on Black Friday…I’m already regretting that one!!! I’m hoping that this winter training pays off before I have to squeeze into that triathlon spandex in the springtime.

Garmin Connect - December 2016

Garmin Connect – December 2016

So, my total mileage for the year ended up as 2,388 miles made up of:

1,597 miles – Running

753 miles – Cycling

38 miles – Swimming

Overall it was a lot of fun. Lots of good work with some good results, so lets recap 2016.

January – March

With no runDisney races for the first time in recent years the winter months were spent training for the spring marathon and avoiding the cold and the snow. With the treadmill we bought at the end of 2015 I was lucky not to miss too many days of training. I even became a regular at the pool towards the end of February. My wife and I did run the Eanie-Meanie-Minie-Moe Half Marathon with our local running club (Bucks County Road Runners) as part of their Winter Series. Lots of fun…lots of hills…but on the plus side, lots of food at the finish.

Running the 'Eenie-Meanie-Minie-Moe' Half Marathon

Running the ‘Eenie-Meanie-Minie-Moe’ Half Marathon

My wife and I also took part in the Philadelphia Phillies Charities 5K. This was my first time running this event although my wife has run it every year. It was a lot of fun. I don’t run too many 5Ks and this was over too quick. Still we had a fun time down at the stadium.

And finished with a fun photo opp.

And finished with a fun photo opp.

At the end of March I was invited onto the Let’s Run Disney podcast to talk about my ‘Goofy In A Day‘ experience back in 2015 where I ran 39.3 miles in one day to raise money for ‘Give Kids The World Village’.

April

At the last-minute I decided to register for and run in the Rutgers Half Marathon in New Brunswick, NJ. I had run this race in 2015 and enjoyed it. It was a good warm up to race season. I wasn’t expecting too much and managed to end up running a new half marathon PR. A good days work and definitely a confidence builder going into the season. I was invited after this race to join my friend John on his  ‘Runner of a Certain Age’ podcast for a race recap.

On my way to a new Half Marathon PR at the Rutgers UNITE Half Marathon.

On my way to a new Half Marathon PR at the Rutgers UNITE Half Marathon.

May

At the beginning of May was the New Jersey Marathon. I had run this back in 2013 and 2014 and this is still my current marathon PR. This time I was running with my wife and we met up with my friend Elvin who ran with us for the first 19 miles. It rained from the minute we started the race until the end. It was a truly soaking run but we had fun and we made the best of it.

Outside the 'Stone Pony' in Asbury Park, NJ (Springsteen Country)

Outside the ‘Stone Pony’ in Asbury Park, NJ (Springsteen Country)

A few days after the marathon, I got up early one morning and while getting my biking cleats on I managed to strain my sacroiliac joint. Ouch. Big ouch. I was laid out flat for two days unable to sit up. After three trips to the chiropractor in two days and lots of time laying on a heat pad I was finally up and moving again. After 9 days off (yeah…I know not a lot) I was running again. My wife was the race director for her company’s 5K (which was more like a 5.5K) and we all (me, both boys and my father in law) were taking part. I didn’t want to show myself up so I put the hammer down and ended up 3rd in my age group and 10th overall.

Good enough for 3rd place in my age group.

Good enough for 3rd place in my age group.

The boys had a great time running the 1 mile fun run. My wife (and her company) did an awesome job.

Proud parent moment. The Heir and the Spare running the 1 Mile Fun Run

Proud parent moment. The Heir and the Spare running the 1 Mile Fun Run

Priceless. Crossing the finish line

Priceless. Crossing the finish line

Following the New Jersey Marathon I was in full triathlon training mode. I was training for my first Half Iron distance in July. My training went from a max of 7 hours a week (when training for a marathon) to between 12-16 hours a week at the peak of triathlon training.

June

During the peak of my triathlon training I had to take a business trip to London. I was unable to bike and swim during the 10 days overseas but I did get the opportunity to enjoy the great English summer and I got a lot of running time (and sightseeing through London) in the early hours of each day. My hotel was in Central London and I was able to cover lots of ground on foot. It was great. I was also fortunate to spend time with my Sister and her family and with my Parents. It was a great trip and a productive work trip.

Finishing my time in London with a final run over Tower Bridge. Maybe one day I will be able to get back for the London Marathon.

Finishing my time in London with a final run over Tower Bridge. Maybe one day I will be able to get back for the London Marathon.

July

This was the big month. This was what I had been training for all winter long. My first Half Iron distance triathlon. I participated in the HITS Hudson Valley Triathlon up in Kingston, NY. It was my first attempt at a 70.3 mile swim, bike, run event. I had a great experience made all the better with meeting up with my friend Bob (also doing the Half Iron distance) and having my wife’s Aunt and her family meet me at the finish line. I was on a high for days after the event despite my exhaustion. It was great.

I did it!!!

I did it!!! My first 70.3 (Half Iron Distance) traithlon

With my friend Bob at the finish line

With my friend Bob at the finish line

Later in the month and with temperatures in the 90’s I took part in the New Jersey State Traithlon at the Olympic distance. This was the site of my first triathlon attempt which was washed out by a lightning storm in 2015 with only the swim and bike legs completed. This year I was able to complete the race despite the intense heat and had a lot of fun. I’m already signed up for this event again in 2017.

2016 New Jersey State Triathlon

2016 New Jersey State Triathlon

At the end of July I was invited onto the Team Shenanigans podcast to talk about transitioning from marathon running to triathlon training and racing. That was a lot of fun (and thankfully heavily edited).

August

With my focus back on marathon training I set about the summer months getting my long runs in for my October marathon. While I may have sounded like winter training is hard (it is) the summer training for a marathon really beats you up. It is the heat and the humidity that really stresses the body. It is easier to run in the cold with layers to keep you warm but its hard to run in the heat as you are already minimally dressed and it is hard to cool down. We took our vacation with the boys this year in Myrtle Beach, SC and the heat and humidity were intense. I stopped on my long runs to refill my water pack which is something I never need to do at home.

Family vacation time

Family vacation time

While on vacation both boys ran a 5K with us to earn their own virtual runDisney medals. We were very proud of them and they want to do this again in 2017.

With their Mickey Shorts medals

With their Mickey Shorts medals

September

At the start of the month I was invited back (as a last minute stand in) to my friend John’s ‘Runner of a Certain Age’ podcast to talk about the Rock ‘n’ Roll Race Series.

This was the peak of marathon training for me with the upcoming marathon at the beginning of October. Thankfully the weather was still great for most of the month. Cooler but not too cool. I had two races this month, the Hightstown Triathlon (my last triathlon of the season) and the Rock ‘n’ Roll Philadelphia Half Marathon (my 6th consecutive time running this race).

The triathlon was lots of fun. I was confident going into this as this was the shortest of my races this year and it was great to be joined by a couple of my work colleagues. I ran the Half Marathon with my wife. It was a tough race as it was only 48 hours after my last 20 mile training run but we powered through and made a respectable time.

2016 Hightstown Triathlon

2016 Hightstown Triathlon

2016 Rock 'n' Roll Philadelphia Half Marathon

2016 Rock ‘n’ Roll Philadelphia Half Marathon

October

The first week of October was the Mohawk Hudson River Marathon. This was to be my goal PR race that I had trained for. Despite the scenery (the Adirondacks in the fall is breathtakingly beautiful) my time goal was not meant to be. I faded during the last 7 miles of the race and ended up running just over 4 hours. Not what I had planned but still respectable. I wasn’t disappointed. I did the best I could on the day but it just wasn’t my day. Still, we had a great weekend meeting up with family in Albany and my wife ran a great half marathon.

Although I missed my goal time I always celebrate a marathon finish

Although I missed my goal time I always celebrate a marathon finish

November

This was a busy but fun month. It started out with me ‘race chasing’ my wife as she ran (and earned a new PR) in the TCS New York City Marathon. She had won her place in the lottery and I did all I could to support her over the weekend. It was a great time and I was so proud of her. I had a lot of fun running and taking the subway all across the city. I managed to see my wife four times during the race and the weather was perfect.

The Great Race Chase

The Great Race Chase

My wife and her NYC Marathon finisher medal

My wife and her NYC Marathon finisher medal

The week before Thanksgiving is the time for the Philadelphia Marathon. This year I was running in the inaugural ‘Rocky Challenge’ which involved me running the Philadelphia Half Marathon on the Saturday and the Philadelphia Marathon on the Sunday for a total of 39.3 miles. It was lots of fun. I wasn’t putting too much pressure on myself other than to just finish each race. I was totally thrilled to run each race under my target times and for the weekend I ran a sub 2 hour half marathon and a sub 4 hour full marathon. This was despite a significant change in the weather between the two days. I was really pleased with my performance and this capped off my racing year on a high.

A good weekends work. A sub 2 hour Half Marathon and a sub 4 hour Full Marathon

A good weekends work. A sub 2 hour Half Marathon and a sub 4 hour Full Marathon

We finished the year with our usual Thanksgiving Day 5 mile Turkey Trot which our local running club puts on. My wife and I ran together with a fairly decent time (I think near one of our fastest times).

Always great to cross a finish line together

Always great to cross a finish line together

In Summary

2016 was a fun and rewarding year. I completed 3 marathons and 4 half marathons. I completed 3 triathlons, a Half Iron distance, Olympic distance and Sprint distance. I earned a new half marathon PR. I ran in London (and Atlanta and Arizona) and also participated in 4 podcasts. What fun!!!

I cannot wait to see what 2017 brings.

On my calendar (so far):

March – Rock ‘n’ Roll DC Marathon (with my wife)

July – Rev3 Williamsburg Sprint and 70.3 Triathlons (another two-day challenge)

July – New Jersey State Triathlon (Olympic Distance)

September – Rock ‘n’ Roll Philadelphia Half Marathon (with my wife)

I’m hoping to get through the New York City Marathon lottery this year (my 3rd attempt) and I’ll probably run the Philadelphia Full Marathon again in November.

Thank you for reading.

 

 

 

 

 

November 2016 – Month in review

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

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

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

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

Pre-race at the Thanksgiving Day run

Always great to cross a finish line together

Always great to cross a finish line together

A nice way to earn our Thanksgiving dinner treats

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.

Thank you for reading.

 

 

2016 Philadelphia Marathon Weekend – ‘Rocky Challenge’ recap

 

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If it’s November it must be time for the Philadelphia Marathon weekend. This was my first marathon back in 2011 and I’ve run it every year I have been at home ever since (missing only 2014). As has been my habit, I signed up for the race on April 1st the day registration opened.

This year had a number of changes to the race weekend that were not announced until the end of April, almost a month after registration had opened. For the last 20 years the race was organized and run by the City of Philadelphia. This year, the job of putting on the race was given to the Philadelphia Parks and Recreation. This is the same organization that puts on the annual ‘Broad Street Run’ (which is the nation’s largest 10 mile run). Additionally they announced that the Half Marathon (traditionally run the same time as the marathon) would be moved to the Saturday, the day before the marathon on a completely new course. I felt bad for all those people who had already signed up and made hotel arrangements. Judging by the feedback the race received on Facebook, this wasn’t a popular change although at the time this did not impact me.

One of the best parts about running the Philadelphia Marathon are the crowds. When the half and full races are run together (the half is the first part of the marathon course) everyone runs together and just splits at the 13 mile mark. Plenty of crowds are out on the first part of the course. It is quieter on the second half but that is expected based upon the numbers doing the full. With the change splitting the races I was concerned that the race would lose an element of the great crowd support for the marathon as there would be less spectators out on the course. Nevertheless I put it on my training plan as the Sunday race was all I was planning to run.

However, in mid-September they announced that with the demand from runners who wanted to run both days they created a new ‘Challenge’ race, the ‘Rocky Challenge’ race. Well…you know me…if there’s an extra medal I have to sign up for it. I can still see my wife rolling her eyes at me knowing full well she wasn’t going to be able to change my mind, and so with her permission (well, kind of) I signed up for the inaugural ‘Rocky Challenge’. I now would be running both the Half on the new course and the Full on the original course (with just a couple of alterations).

I have done challenge races before, the runDisney ‘Goofy Challenge’ in 2013 and 2015 and also the inaugural ‘Dopey Challenge’ in 2014, so I knew what I would be in for. I had just 6 weeks between the Mohawk Hudson River Marathon and the Philadelphia Marathon weekend so I adjusted my current plan (2 weeks recovery, 2 weeks training, 2 weeks taper) to make sure that my weekend runs were simulations for race weekend, i.e. my Saturday run would be at least half the distance of the Sunday run so I was doing the same distance ratio each weekend prior to the race.

One other adjustment I made following the Mohawk Hudson River Marathon in early October was changing my plan from run/walk to try running these races straight through. While the run/walk method has been my mainstay since I started running, I wasn’t happy that despite doing a run/walk for the Mohawk Hudson River Marathon, I still got fatigued by mile 15 and slowed significantly by mile 19. My plan was to start running straight for my training runs to find the exact distance where I started to fatigue running straight through vs run/walk. To my surprise I wasn’t finding a great difference. With that being the case I decided to keep running straight through with the plan to try this under race conditions. Training seemed to go well.

The Expo

Race weekend arrived. There had not been too much communication from the race director nor on social media with regards to dates announcing bib numbers, waivers, corrals or even the event guide. There had been no reveal of the medal (despite announcing that they were waiting to reveal…it never happened). The expo was down at the Philadelphia Convention Center as per prior years. Before I headed down that day I left a message on the Facebook page asking if there was an opportunity to donate used running shoes to a charity. Again, no response from the race director or his team. I noticed plenty of people asking questions prior to the expo and there was no response. I wasn’t optimistic going into the weekend.

Traffic on a Friday evening in Philadelphia is not good. It took me almost 2 hours for what is usually a 45 minute drive from home before I reached the Convention Center and parked and made my way to the expo hall for race packet pickup.

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It was a rough ride getting to the expo but happy to have finally made it

As per prior years, the expo was set up in a similar manner. Once you entered there was a kids area to the left of the hall, bib and shirt pickup was at the back of the hall. Once you had your stuff you made your way through the official gear shop and then into the general expo.

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Entering the expo

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Pick up for the Half and the Full marathons (and Challenge)

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Bib pick up was on the left, shirt pick up was on the right

Now maybe I have been spoiled by so many years as a runDisney challenge participant and maybe I am being unduly harsh as this was the first year of the challenge here in Philadelphia, but the volunteers were not too aware of the challenge option. It wasn’t too easy to find but at the end of the hall there was a table with challenge bib pick up. I picked up my bib and noticed it didn’t have a corral assigned to it. I had noticed online that for all race numbers there were corrals assigned but not for Challenge participants and when I received my bib the corral was left blank. I had to go over to the corral change table and they looked up my corral based on my expected finish time, took a corresponding colored marker and wrote on my corral placement!!

"GREEN", so says the man with the green Sharpie

“GREEN”, so says the man with the green Sharpie

Having just looked at this picture again I am wondering why may name and age is accompanied by an ‘F’ and not an ‘M’???

I asked the volunteers if there was anything special I needed to do for the challenge, i.e. was there a special extra shirt or something I needed to pick up. They said no, I just got two gear bags(!) and a half marathon shirt and a full marathon shirt for which I had to get into two separate lines. So far there was nothing special to show this was a challenge. I hadn’t seen any medals, I hadn’t received a special shirt. Essentially I felt like I was just running two races with nothing additional to show for it.

I left the bib pick up area with my two bags, two shirts and hand marked bib and headed through the official merchandise area. There was plenty of varieties of merchandise and this was also split into men, women, half and full gear but no ‘Rocky’ or other challenge related merchandise. Again, I’ve been spoiled by runDisney but seriously I was thinking this challenge was just a way to sell spaces in both days and there was nothing being done to celebrate it or provide anything special for the runners. I was getting more disappointed as I progressed through this expo.

One good thing from the expo was that I saw my fellow Mickey Miler, Sam, who was there getting his bib and merchandise for Sunday’s marathon. That pretty much was the highlight from this expo.

I had seen a couple of things at the online shop prior to race day but they didn’t show the full range of sizes online. I tried to look for them at the expo but to be honest I was looking for something specific to the Challenge. I did go up and down the aisles and I did purchase a Philadelphia Marathon trucker hat but nothing else. I was really disappointed that they had no medals to see, nothing related to the Challenge of any sort and pretty much breezed through the rest of the expo and headed for home.

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Plenty or Half and Full specific gear

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Mostly generic ‘Philadelphia Marathon Weekend’ accessories

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Some more varieties of merchandise but nothing Challenge specific

I made my way home to set up my gear for the next day and the plan was to get an early night (or as best you can with two boys under 10 in the house).

Gear was all ready and I was hopeful that the races would be more enjoyable

Gear was all ready and I was hopeful that the races would be more enjoyable

Day 1 – Philadelphia Half Marathon

Race day arrived and I was up at 4am for the first of my two days of races. The Half Marathon started at 7:30am but I was my usual nervous self and got up early. The weekend forecast was dramatically different for both days. Saturday was supposed to start cool but warm up, but Sunday was supposed to be cold and windy with temperatures 20 degrees cooler than the day before.

I made it downtown to my usual parking garage for race days (weekend rate $12 and only a couple of blocks away from the race staging area). As per the last few years (since the Boston Marathon bombing) there was a large security perimeter and security checkpoints around the various access points. I was early. It was a little chilly and I was dressed up in a jacket and light pants but I was still cold. I was more worried about the next day if I was this cold on the better weather day.

I was here so early the dinosaurs were not yet extinct

I was here so early the dinosaurs were not yet extinct

Security seemed fairly quick and simple, probably because I was so early. I heard that later runners had a much different experience. People who had water bottles on race belts were not allowed to bring them into the area. People with gels and other types of fuel were also not allowed to bring things into the area. This was crazy. Runners train with specific fluids and fuels but the security or volunteers at the checkpoint were not letting people bring in their own stuff.  Needless to say that when I looked at Facebook later in the day people were not very happy. This actually prompted the race directors team to send out an email on Saturday night before the Marathon with entry guidelines for Sunday. This should have been sent before the Half but this didn’t say anything about race fuels and said only that hydration packs or belts are allowed subject to screening. This wasn’t running as smooth as I had experienced in prior years.

Security barriers were up around a large perimeter

Security barriers were up around a large perimeter

All clean and unused. A perk of arriving so early. Tomorrow I wouldn't be saying the same

All clean and unused. A perk of arriving so early. Tomorrow I wouldn’t be saying the same

As I was so early I walked around for a bit, through Eakins Oval where the athletes village and charity tents were set up and then I walked over to the stairs of the Philadelphia Art Museum to see the Rocky statue.

Eakins Oval and tent village

Eakins Oval and tent village

Philadelphia Museum of Art (and the Rocky stairs)

Philadelphia Museum of Art (and the Rocky stairs)

Me and the Italian Stallion

Me and the Italian Stallion

Yo Adrian!!!

Yo Adrian!!!

As dawn broke I made my way over to bag check and got myself all set and ready for the start of the race. I had been there for a while and hoped to get a couple of sips of water before I started the race, however, the pre-race water tent was not yet open. People were lining up as they started to open up and unpack the tent. Again, just another of those things that got to me since the expo. I hoped at least that the race would be run smoothly.

'Team Cookie' ready to run

‘Team Cookie’ ready to run

In the Green corral and waiting to go

In the Green corral and waiting to go

The National Anthem was ‘played’ over the loudspeaker…yes, played. Not sung. Really? This is a pretty major race weekend. I was surprised. Soon enough the corral made its way to the start line and we were off.

Every year that I have run this race (and I believe every year it was run prior to that too) the half and full races have been run together so I was very familiar with the course that the half marathoners used to run. This year the race organizers announced that there was a new course. Okay, it’s always good to make a change and I would at least not be running the same route back to back.

The new course took us from the start down towards Independence Mall and wrapped us back around towards Logan Square. As is the case with Philadelphia, some people just walk out in front of you to cross the street because we are in their way. This was the case today. Luckily I was able to side step at the last moment or there would have been a pile on with a few runners.

From Logan Square we ran up Martin Luther King Jr Boulevard (West River Drive) and into Fairmount Park. Around mile 7 we had the first of what would be a series of uphills. Seriously…mile 7 through 11 were pretty much constant up and down hills. Not rolling…steep grades. The half marathon course in prior years was pretty flat. There was the hill up through Drexel University and the hill up to Memorial Hall but they were nothing compared to the hills we had to run up today. Wow.

I'm not kidding about those hills on the second half o the course

I wasn’t kidding about those hills on the second half of the course

As I wrote earlier, I was planning to run the whole way and not use my run/walk method. So far all was going well….until around mile 8 when I had to walk up the hill for about 60 seconds. It was getting quite warm at this point (ultimately the temperatures would be in the low 60s) and the hills just got to me. That was the only time I had to stop and walk.

I continued on and we left the park on the west side of the river and crossed over a bridge to the east side of the park and another hill. What was noticeable now was that we hadn’t really seen any spectators since around mile 4 when we headed out on West River Drive. Spectators were one of the things that made this race great in prior years. Running through the city on the old course the crowds were awesome. So loud and jammed in on both sides of the street. Here we had…well, there was a kids’ soccer game going on but those spectators were for the peewee game not the runners.

One thing I didn’t see, or maybe I just missed, was the energy gel station. There was supposed to be one around mile 8 or so. Nope, don’t recall it. Based upon what I read on Facebook after the race it wasn’t there. Considering that security had taken gels and other fuels off runners at the perimeter security checks that was not going to go over well.

Once past mile 11 the terrain started going downhill. The temperatures had warmed up and I was looking at a pretty decent time. I was hoping to run the whole way (pretty much mission accomplished so far) and my goal was to get close to 2 hours. I had to save my legs for the next day. However, I felt good so decided to run harder the last mile and see if I could get myself a good time.

As I rounded the end of Kelly Drive I was just under half a mile from the finish line. I pushed hard and crossed the finish line with a time of 1:54:57 (average pace 8:46). Wow. Very happy with that. I had some decent splits with my slowest mile being the one where I had to walk. I felt good. My legs felt fresh. Perhaps my weekend goal of getting a combined time of 6 hours was reachable. (2 hours for the half and 4 hours for the full was my goal). I wasn’t going for a PR but just a good performance. This was a great confidence booster going into tomorrow.

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First finish line of the weekend

First finish line of the weekend

First medal of the weekend

First medal of the weekend

Post race was set up differently than prior years. Probably because they had half the people per day as the races were split, the finish area was moved from the center of the Benjamin Franklin Parkway to a field on the left of the parkway.

Food tent was set up on a field to the side of the finish line

Food tent was set up on a field to the side of the finish line

Post race refreshments were plentiful. Everyone was handed water and there was plenty of food (pretzels!!!!) for runners. No bags though this year like last year so it was pretty awkward to carry this as well as keep your mylar wrap on. Some folks turned their blankets into sacks. Handy folks.

Plenty of food for runners

Plenty of food for runners

Plenty of food for runners

Plenty of food for runners

Plenty of food for runners

Plenty of food for runners

Mmmm...tasted so good

Mmmm…tasted so good

A great start to the weekend

A great start to the weekend

So as happy as I was with the race performance, I wasn’t thrilled with the course. Judging by the comments on Facebook not many people were thrilled. Their comments were the same as I had said above. There wasn’t enough time in the city. Plenty of time in the park but those places were not accessible for spectators so most of the run was pretty quiet for the miles in the park. The mess at security where people couldn’t bring in water packs and gels compounded by the lack of gels on the course. The lack of water at the start line. Surprising as this organization manages a much larger race (Broad Street has about 40,000 runners).

I didn’t stick around as I wanted to get home and rest for tomorrow’s marathon. I headed back to my car, quickly (or as best I could) get out of the city and got home for a 20 minute ice bath and a hot shower. We had plans with friends that night so I took it easy and rested in the afternoon. I laid out my gear for the next day so I could get straight to bed when we got home.

While we were out and about that evening the weather changed. The temperature dropped about 20 degrees and the wind picked up. Uh oh. Tomorrow was going to be quite a different experience.

Day two outfit - Team Kirk

Day two outfit – Team Kirk

Day 2 – Philadelphia Marathon

4:00am rolled around (too quickly) and I got out of bed. I could hear the wind whipping around the house outside. This was going to be interesting. The temperatures were in the low 30s. Eek. I was hoping my outfit was going to be enough.

I made it downtown and back to the same parking garage as the day before and headed over to the starting area. Security was much the same as the day before. The race organizers had sent out an email the night before saying what was and what wasn’t allowed through security. I assume they had shared the same email to security personnel at the checkpoints into the race area.

It was cold. Windy and cold. I made my way over to where I would at least be away from the wind. So far I hadn’t been too impressed with the changes to the race but in one action the race organizers changed my mind. HEATED TENTS. Yes, they had opened up tents that were used for something else previously and connected up heat sources to them. I crowded into one of the tents with everyone else. It was tightly packed. I decided to stay in there as long as I could until I had to get in line to use the restroom and check my bags. I changed out of my warm gear and got my bib on. I waited until I thought was long enough before heading out.

Warm race tent. Awesome.

Warm race tent. Awesome.

Bag all checked and ready to race

Bag all checked and ready to race

The lines for the restroom were not short and standing there in the cold wind was not the most fun I’ve had. Once I had done what I needed to do and checked my bag I put on my large trash liner. I was still shivering despite the layer.

Still cold...

Still cold…

I got into the corral and waited for go time. This morning the National Anthem was actually sung by a real person…not pre-taped.

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In the corral. Almost GO time.

So this was it. I was going to run my first marathon without run/walk intervals. My legs felt good despite having run a half marathon the day before. My goal was to get close to 4 hours. I was going to go for it and see how long I was going to last just running.

Go time!

As I approached the start line I almost missed the timing mat. I couldn’t see it ahead of me. Luckily I started my GPS watch just in time. More on that later. With that, I headed out on the familiar marathon course with a big smile. I just felt relaxed.

The first few miles went well. I was glad that despite the weather and the wind, the crowds were out in full. The cheers of all the supporters as we headed through Old City and through Center City really helped keep up my spirits. I was keeping pace with most of the people around me. I had stalked out a few people who were similar pace. One person was wearing an ‘Ironman Finisher’ hat so I figured they knew how to pace themselves so I mainly tried to pace myself with them.

The first big test of the marathon is the hill that runs up from Drexel University to the Philadelphia Zoo around mile 7 to 8. No walk breaks yet but I had to make a quick pit stop at the top of the hill (I’m getting old) but luckily this didn’t lose me too much time. From there the next test and really the only big test on the first half of the course is the run up hill to Memorial Hall. This is traditionally where I end up walking a little, but not today. I made it up without stopping. I knew it was flat once we reached the top so I could catch my breath as needed.

Elevation profile for the marathon. The main hills are on the front half of the course.

Elevation profile for the marathon. The main hills are on the front half of the course.

This was also the change to the course that was new this year. Rather than quickly round ourselves past the entrance to the Please Touch Museum and back onto the West River Drive we stayed up in the park and ran towards the Mann Music Center and rounded the back of the Please Touch Museum.

As we passed the Mann Music Center I suddenly got a stomach cramp. Eek. No bathrooms in sight (I had passed them at the water station and didn’t think I needed another pit stop). My next couple of miles or so was a pretty anxious time. There was nowhere to ‘go’ and nowhere to ‘hide’ in an emergency. Double EEK!!

We were soon down the hill and out of the park. Priority number one now wasn’t pace…it was to find a bathroom…without a line…and clean!! During mile 12 I saw a mirage. Four port-a-potties with no lines. Mission accomplished…

All refreshed and feeling much better I set out to continue my run. As the course had been altered this year with the extra distance in the park, we reached the half marathon point while still running on the West River Drive rather than right in front of the Philadelphia Art Museum as in prior years. By the time we wrapped around the front of the Art Museum it was mile 14 and I arrived just as the leaders were making their way up the finish line.

Here are my splits for the first half of the race. Despite two pit stops at mile 9 and 12, I still hit the half marathon point sub 2 hours. I was hoping that now I felt better, maybe getting close to 4 hours would be achievable. Only one way to find out, keep going.

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Also as we rounded the corner we were running headlong into the wind. The cold wind. And it was whipping up with sudden gusts every now and then.

The second half of the marathon course is an out and back from the Art Museum to Manyunk and then back to the finish line on the Benjamin Franklin Parkway. With the added mileage the race had eliminated the small out and back at the Falls Bridge. I hated that in all the years I’ve run the race. Another way the race organizers endeared themselves to me today.

The out and back on any course can be tough mentally. I had a few friends running so to distract myself during the run I kept looking for them. I didn’t actually see any friends until I was into the last few miles but it certainly took my mind off the race for a while.

My favorite point in the race is the turnaround in Manyunk. I know I’m on the home stretch with just under 10K to go until the finish line.

Here are my splits to the turnaround point. Slower but the wheels hadn’t fallen off like they had at this point at the Mohawk Hudson River Marathon the month previously. I still had something left in my legs and so I buckled down for the last 5 miles of the race.

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So having run to Manyunk into the wind and this being an out and back, you would think that I would be running with the wind at my back on the way to the finish line…not so much. Crazy. Well, at least the sun was out.

Looking at my watch I knew that if I kept my pace I would be coming in close, maybe a touch under 4 hours. Head down, keep on moving. You know what, I think I’m going to do it…

Next thing I know I’m approaching the Art Museum and the finish line would be right ahead…or so I thought. If you recall I had almost missed the timing mat at the start but now I realized that because of the wind they had taken down the Start/Finish line banner. So as I approached the finish line I couldn’t actually see it. A sort of panic arose as I had started my final kick to the finish line but I couldn’t see it and I didn’t know how long I could sustain this pace after almost 26.2 miles.

Finally I crossed the timing mat. I hit my watch and saw that I had finished under 4 hours. I couldn’t believe it. I had done it. In two days I ran sub 2 hours and sub 4 hours. I was elated.

My final splits

My final splits

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I did it

I did it

Post race area

Post race area

The post race area was the same as the previous day. Keeping my mylar wrap on in the wind was quite a challenge. The wind was still very strong and it was cold.  Coupled with the rapid cool down post race these were not ideal conditions. I grabbed some food and asked a volunteer if there was anywhere I should go for the ‘Rocky Challenge’. As per the expo the volunteers didn’t really know what I was talking about. I had read and re-read the original press release when I got back from the expo and they did mention that there would be an extra medal. Finally I found a volunteer who motioned to a tent…not a specific tent but in a general direction.

As with the Start/Finish line, all signage had been taken down so there was no way to tell which tent to look for. I saw someone else looking lost and I asked him if he was looking for the Challenge tent and he said he was so we both looked for it together. Finally we saw someone with a Challenge medal and they showed us which tent to go to. Because of the wind it was totally unmarked and was closed at all sides. We couldn’t find our way in. Luckily someone came out and we went inside. There were a couple of people checking details off a sheet and once they got my bib number they handed me my extra medal. All folded up. Not much fanfare and hidden from the main finish line area. I cannot imagine how many people missed this and didn’t pick up their extra medal.

Here it is. The 'Rocky Challenge' medal

Here it is. The ‘Rocky Challenge’ medal

Looks good added to the Full Marathon medal

Looks good added to the Full Marathon medal

I quickly got my bag from bag check so I could get some warm clothes back on. I had also brought my medal from the prior day’s Half Marathon (I had never thought to do that at any of the runDisney races) so I could take a picture with all three medals.

A good weekends work. A sub 2 hour Half Marathon and a sub 4 hour Full Marathon

A good weekends work. A sub 2 hour Half Marathon and a sub 4 hour Full Marathon

Once the photo was taken I got dressed as quickly as I could and headed back to the parking lot. It was too cold to stick around. I just wanted to get somewhere warm. I actually felt pretty good despite running 39.3 miles. I decided on the way back to the car to stop somewhere for coffee as I was shaking from the cold and just needed something warm before I got myself back into the car for the drive home. I found a small coffee shop on the way back. It was pretty crowded and full of runners and spectators but I didn’t want anything fancy, just hot black coffee so there was no long wait.

I made it back to the car and put on my heated seats and drove home…wearing my medals of course.

Looking back, I wasn’t thrilled with the weekend. The race organizers could do nothing about the weather but I was disappointed with the lack of response from the organizers on social media to any questions asked, the expo wasn’t too special and the fact that the Challenge seemed to be an after thought didn’t leave me with a good feeling. I really didn’t enjoy the new Half Marathon course but I guess moving to Saturday they had to avoid shutting down the whole city for two days. I just wasn’t a big fan of the course.

What was good about the weekend was the new Full Marathon course. I loved the changes. I think the only thing that made the weekend memorable for me was the fact that I reached my race goals of running sub 2 hour and sub 4 hour races, especially following the Mohawk Hudson River Marathon disappointment in October. I was pretty much on a high for the next few days. Really proud that my run straight through attempt worked out.

I got home and was excited to show the medals to my boys. It was 5 years since my first marathon in Philadelphia. This was my 5th Philadelphia Marathon and my 17th Marathon overall.

Here I am from my 1st and 17th marathon. I guess (apart from a few more pounds I’m carrying this year) yellow is my color.

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I enjoyed my dessert that night. I’d earned it.

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Thanks for sticking with this one. It was a long write-up.

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Yo Adrian….We Did It!!!!

October 2016 – Month in review

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

October 2016 - Nike+ Summary

October 2016 – Nike+ Summary

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

October 2016 - Garmin Connect Summary

October 2016 – Garmin Connect Summary

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

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

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

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

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Ready to Boldly Go

This was not the look I was going for

This was not the look I was going for

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

Ready to beam up

Ready to beam up

Appropriately, I got candy from this house

Appropriately, I got candy from this house

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

Thank you for reading.

 

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

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Here we go…

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

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

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

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

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

Done!

Done! Umpteen laps around Playwicki Farm

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

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

Ready to party

Ready to party

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

Certainly so

Certainly so

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

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

Should I worry?

Should I worry?

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

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

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

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

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

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

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Waiting in our corral to go

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Our view of the start line

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

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

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

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This years course

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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Receiving another Rock ‘n’ Roll Half Marathon medal

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The ice cooled towels were amazing

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

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Always happy to see family at the finish line.

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

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

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Our reward for another half marathon completed

Thank you for reading.

2016 HITS Hudson Valley, NY Triathlon – Race recap

 

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I am thrilled to be writing this race recap.

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.

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.

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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.

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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 emblazzoned across your chest isn't exactly flattering.

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:

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.

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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.

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Arriving at the race site. This confirmed we were in the right place.


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The finish line just a day away.


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Williams Lake. The buoys were being set up as we arrived.


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Bob went first. We planned to swim out and back to the first buoy.


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Not nervous at all…


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Okay…ready…set…

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.

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Not the best sense of direction


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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.

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Hanging the suit up to dry


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The packet pickup tent


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Swim course map – Two loops around the lake


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Bike route around the Ashokan Reservoir


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The updated run course


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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).

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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.

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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.


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The exit from the swim to transition


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The exit from transition to the bike course.


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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.


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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.

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Yes…that’s a trail.


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I will point out that this is ‘before’ the heavy rain that fell overnight.


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Yup, that’s a cave.


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They said there were bats in side.


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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…


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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.

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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.

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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.

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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.

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I think that’s everything.


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Cut me some slack…I’m 44 with two kids. Sometimes I cannot even remember their names.


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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.

Race Day:

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…

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My training plan sent me this message to my inbox.

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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.

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Cars being towed out.


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The aftermath. I hadn’t considered what it would do to the running trail yet.


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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.

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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.

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Everyone getting ready in transition.


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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.

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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.

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The bike route


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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.

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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.

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Rosendale Trestle Bridge (picture from the HITS Facebook page)


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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.

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Bob took this photo of me running into the finish


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Woohoo….70.3 DONE!!! (Thanks for the photo Francine)


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Hey, I know you!


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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.

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Nice to have a family meet me at the finish (Thank you Nadine, Steve and Benjamin)


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Bob and I. He looks a little more rested than me.


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Bob making sure I saved my multisport event file.


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YES!!!

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...

So much for my fancy shoes…


...and fancy socks. Just a little muddy

…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 🙂

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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.

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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.

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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 🙂

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Thank you for sticking with me for this (longer than normal) race recap. At least this took you less than 7 hours to read.