in24 Midnight Madness race recap

At the weekend I ran my first nighttime race, the in24 Philadelphia Midnight Madness. It is a mid-distance race through Fairmount Park and is run on the 8.4-mile loop around Philadelphia’s Schuylkill River. It was definitely unique. I even got to live out some of my ‘TRON’ fantasies from my childhood.

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It was part of the in24 Philadelphia weekend raising funds and awareness for ‘Back on My Feet’, a national organization that uses running to help those experiencing homelessness to transform their lives. The weekend included an urban Ultra-Marathon, relay challenge, the Midnight Madness event and a 5K.

in24 Philadelphia 2014

in24 Philadelphia 2014

I mainly train in the early mornings (I’ve been known to get up at 3am to run – not counting runDisney weekends) so this was a bit of an adjustment for me in terms of being on my feet all day and figuring out what and when to eat before the race. It was an interesting experiment in time management for sure.

I have 4 weeks left until the ‘Chasing the Unicorn’ marathon and so I have been piling on the mileage recently. This left me a little tired going in, especially with a 12 miler that I had run the previous day (I was up at 3:30am in the morning) before work. Luckily I almost got to sleep in a little on Saturday morning as my wife took my eldest son to do ‘The Color Run’ down in Philadelphia. I was able to relax a bit with my other little guy and we watched a lot of Disney movies in our pajamas.

The Color Run - Before

The Color Run – Before

The Color Run - During

The Color Run – During

The Color Run - After

The Color Run – After

I spent the afternoon with the whole family and after putting the boys to bed I got myself ready, said goodnight to my wife and headed downtown to Philadelphia. The race was at midnight and I arrived around 10.30pm. I hadn’t been able to pick up my race packet the day earlier as logistically it was difficult for me to get to the host running store before it closed on Friday. I figured if I needed to return to my car to drop off stuff this gave me time. Thankfully there was bag check at the event.

Getting ready - wearing my Noxgear 'Tracer 360'

Getting ready – wearing my Noxgear ‘Tracer 360’

Getting ready - wearing my Noxgear 'Tracer 360'

Getting ready – wearing my Noxgear ‘Tracer 360’

This was the look I was going for...

This was the look I was going for… Not quite the same.

As I drew up to the start/finish area at Lloyd Hall on the banks of the river it looked a little like a tented village. In addition to the race tents and sponsors areas, many of the ultra-runners and relay teams had set up tents and camped out for the 24 hour event (10am Saturday through 10am Sunday).

Check in was pretty simple and after pinning on my bib and getting my reflective gear on I checked my bag and waited with everyone else around the start line. Next to the check in table was a table of night running gear and glo sticks which were free to take and provided by the organizers. These included some reflective arm/leg bands, glo sticks and I think there were a few blinking lights available for runners.

Check in area

Check in area

Runners were encouraged to wear headlamps in the race instructions and most people did that. In addition to the running awards (top finishers) there was also a prize for best illuminated. Some people went to great effort and were innovative in their use of glo sticks. I saw a glo stick tutu, baseball cap and glasses as well as other uses.

A glo tutu

A glo tutu

6

Dressed up and ready to run

I myself wore my new Noxgear ‘Tracer 360’ light and reflective gear. In addition to standing out it was very lightweight and provided much entertainment it seemed for the other runners. I have since had another early morning run wearing it (10 miles) and it is comfortable and stays put and is a little cooler to wear than my usual Brooks Nightlife running vest. In addition I wore my Petzel Tikkina headlamp and my Road ID Supernova lamp at the back of my hat (see my blog post about this gear here). People could certainly see me coming.

Can you see me now?

Can you see me now?

The Tracer 360 stands out

The Tracer 360 stands out

Around 11:40pm the starter called us to the starting area and gave a few instructions. As there was another race still going on (the ultra) we were running anti-clockwise vs the ultra-runners going clockwise. The roads were not closed to other traffic so we obviously had to be aware of our surroundings and although I saw some people wearing headphones their use was not recommended and most runners did not.

The starting area...all a glow and ready to run

The starting area…all a glow and ready to run

The starting area...all a glow and ready to run

The starting area…all a glow and ready to run

The starter made reference to the ultra-runners who had by that time been running almost 14 hours and still had about 10 more hours to go. He said they will look bad and smell even worse so we should give them every encouragement as we pass them by. I had been watching some of the ultra-runners run past while I was in the waiting area. They looked a mix runners going strong and some struggling but they kept it going no matter how hard it looked. Kudos to those guys.

The Ultra was not a fixed distance of 50 miles or 100 miles but was how many 8.4 loops you could fit into the 24 hour period. The winner was a 49 year old runner from Maryland who completed 17 x 8.4 mile loops (143.82 miles) in 23 hours 42 minutes at a sub 10 minute per mile pace. Wow…just wow!!

Midnight came and off we went. It was still quite warm (around 70 degrees) and was a little humid but not too unbearable. All the runners stayed on the sidewalk so it was a little bunched up for the first couple of miles but it soon broke open and spread out as we progressed through miles 3 onwards. The street was fairly well lit with the street lamps alongside the river and other than a few shaded places and underpasses where you needed your headlamp it was fairly okay to run. They had about 4 water stations out on the course and the volunteers were very cheery considering the time of day.

I used my usual run/walk intervals and pretty much stayed with the same group of folks from mile 2 through the end. I felt comfortable with my pace although I did slow around mile 6 and 7 but picked it back up at the finish. The course was pretty flat with the only real climb coming up from West River Drive up to the Philadelphia Museum of Art. It is easier doing it as part of an 8 mile race than it is during the end of a half marathon for sure.

Course map

Course map

My splits

My splits

I completed the loop in a time of 1:14:33. Good enough for 49th place (25th overall male) and at an 8:49 per mile pace. I’ll take that. The winner ran the distance in a time of 45 minutes flat. He was 8 minutes (yes 8 minutes) faster than the runner up. That’s quite a gap for such a distance race. Almost a minute per mile faster than the other runners.

My results

My results

Every runner received a finishers medal as well as some post race refreshments.

Finisher medal

Finisher medal

My reward for the night

My reward for the night

By the time I had finished it was 1:15am. I grabbed a bottle of water and ate half a pretzel. I just wanted to get home and go to bed at this point. It had been a long couple of days and I needed to catch up on my sleep ahead of my last big week of marathon training before the taper. I listened to the results of the races being called and no, I didn’t win most illuminated. As I walked back to my car there were still some runners out on the course doing the Midnight Madness and also many still running the Ultra.

I got home and crawled into bed at 2:33am. Guess who’s kids decided to get up early when it wasn’t a school day? Two boys on full throttle on a Sunday morning. I’m one lucky guy 🙂

It was definitely fun and worth doing and I would recommend it for someone to try something different. I am not sure I would rush back to do it again unless I was running with a friend and I would have the ability to sleep in late the next day. All in all I had a great time running this event and I am just in awe of all those ultra-runners.

Running in the dark – Be safe, be seen

During the months leading up to a Fall (or Spring) marathon as the distances get longer the more you may end up running in the pre-dawn or post-sunset hours. This morning I got up at 4:45am today to squeeze a 7 mile run in before I had to leave for work and the sun didn’t come up until the last couple of miles of my run. This can be a challenge to get out there and put the miles in if you are not fully prepared.

This mornings sunrise calendar

This mornings sunrise time

When I did my first marathon back in the Fall of 2011 I had to figure a way of getting my mid-week runs in before work and on occassions some long runs on the weekend and be home in time for my wife to leave to teach Sunday school. This meant often getting up at 3:00am to knock out a 20 miler and be home in time to look after the boys. So with those challenges I had to make sure that I was adequately geared up so that I was out there safely and I would be coming back home as promised.

Now, I cannot speak for everyone or recommend the best night time gear out there but I have put a list of gear together that I use and you might find useful to research if you haven’t before. Some of this was trial and error but the following seems to be what works best for me.

My every run essentials

Firstly, whether there is sunlight or moonlight, I never leave for a run without wearing my Road ID Sport band. This goes with me on every run. You can read my review of Road ID products here. Additionally, I always take my iPhone with me in either my iFitness belt or in the pocket of my Nathan hydration belt. Everyone has their own favorite way of carrying their personal belongings. Sometimes, even on race days, I will stuff a credit card and a $10 bill away in case of emergencies. When I travel I also bring my driver’s licence with my credit card. But typically it’s just my Road ID, iPhone and house key as I train on familiar routes most of the time.

Road ID Sport

Road ID Sport

iFitness running belt (I use a double pocket on race days for gels)

iFitness running belt
(I use a double pocket on race days to carry my gels)

Nathan Hydration Belt

Nathan Hydration Belt

My pre-dawn essentials

My first purchase when I started running in the early morning was a reflective vest. Even at dawn and dusk it is a useful and lightweight piece of equipment which does not add bulk to you while you run. Since I discovered the Brooks Nightlife series of products I have been a fan of their running gear (I was already a Brooks shoes devotee). This is the vest I personally use but if you look around you will find similar products from other brands. Find something that has good reviews and seems like it will be lasting and finally fits your body well. I use the Brooks Reflective Running Vest. This works well for me.

Brooks vest

Brooks Nightlife Running Vest

I always run with a hat or a visor to either keep the sunlight or the perspiration out of my eyes. I like the Headsweats range of hats and they make a RoadID branded hat which has a lot of extra reflective material. I also use the Brooks Nightlife running hat which in addition to being reflective also has a built in flashing lamp at the rear (which I recently discovered by accident). Here it is.

Brooks running hat in 'Nightlife' reflective material

Brooks running hat in ‘Nightlife’ reflective material

As the sunrises get later I start to wear a headlamp. I use something specifally designed for running which is both lighweight and secure. In addition it provides a wide spread of light for about 20 feet ahead of me. It’s the Petzl Tikkina. It seems to be mid-range in price and they do have others which are more expensive and powerful. Again, I suggest you look at some online reviews and see what you like. I attach a flashing red Road ID Supernova lamp to the back of the strap. This is another reason I wear a hat when running so that it has something to rest on other than my sweaty head.

Petzl Tikkina

Petzl Tikkina headlamp

Road ID Supernova

Road ID Supernova

In the winter months I keep the same setup with the exception that I will swap out the Brooks running vest with my Brooks Essential Nightlife Running Vest if I need an additional layer. I also will wear the Brooks Infiniti Nightlife Beanie. If I am wearing running tights in the dead of winter I may occassionally add some reflective ankle bands too.

Brooks Essential Run Vest (Nightlife series)

Brooks Essential Run Vest (Nightlife series)

Brooks Infiniti Beanie (Nightlife)

Brooks Infiniti Beanie (Nightlife)

Road ID ankle bands

Road ID ankle bands

Rules of the Road

So now I’m all geared up there are some rules of the road that I make sure I stick with on every run.

  • Road ID and phone – always.
  • Tell someone the route you plan to run (just in case)…just don’t wake them up at 3:00am, it’s better to tell them the night before.
  • Map out your route in advance if you are travelling and are not sure of the area.
  • Run against the flow of traffic. This way you see a vehicle even if they do not see you. It may be necessary to cross the road on occassion, for example on roads with tight curves.
  • Stick to the shoulder of the road if there is one. I prefer to run on the blacktop where ever possible to avoid tripping on uneven pavement. Just make sure you have enough room if two cars need to pass at the same time from opposite directions.
  • If it looks like ice or if there is a black ice warning consider taking your run indoors to the gym. Even though you can see ahead of you it is what is under your feet which you cannot control.
  • NO MUSIC. Since I started running in the dark I have had to quit running with music. If cars still cannot see you you despite you being lit up like a Christmas tree you need to be aware of them!!! (I’ve stopped listening to music on all runs but treadmills. Running at night is incredibly calming).
  • Give yourself extra time. Yes, sometimes I do pace runs but mostly I take things just a bit slower. It’s dark, you want to make sure your feet are going where they should be going. Your headlamp can only see so far ahead.
  • Make sure you change the batteries in your headlamp at the start of every season. Having a light that is bright works wonders (again, trial and error).

This is by no means a comprehensive set of guidelines nor is the gear above the definitive list of running gear. This is what works for me. You may find something that works better for you. I know that they make reflective vests with speakers built in to them if you cannot imagine running without music. Other manufacturers make there own range of night running gear (Saucony makes a simliar line of reflective clothing in bright orange). Mostly I just want to be safe. You may think I am being overly cautious with all this preparation (yes, it sometimes takes forever to get dressed and out of the door) but I want to make sure that I can be seen out there. You never know who is out on the road and what condition they may be in.

I will admit that the first time I ran outside with a headlamp pretty much freaked me out. It took a few runs until I was probably acclimated to using it. I found that it is fairly limited in fog and that when you look in the direction of trees and bushes the animals eyes reflect back at you and can make you jump. Also, Halloween season freaks me out because you never know when you will come face to face with an unexpected scarecrow (I’ve watched waaaaay too much ‘Doctor Who’ in my life).

So there you have it. You are all dressed up and have places to go. I hope you found this post insightful.

Be safe out there.

Road ID giveaway

The folks at Road ID liked my product review and were kind enough to offer an ecard valued at $35 for a giveaway to people who follow me on this blog or on Facebook.

Road ID Sportband

So without further ado here is the info to enter for the giveaway:

Click on this link to my Facebook page, choose the ‘Giveaway’ tab and enter by following the steps available.  Each option counts as one entry to the drawing.   The steps are as follows:

  1. Like Philly2Goofy on Facebook (required)
  2. Leave the words “ENTER ME” in the comments down below (on this post only)
  3. Follow Road ID on Twitter (@roadid)
  4. Tweet about the giveaway

One winner will be chosen at random from entries received.

And there you have it.  Couldn’t be simpler.

The giveaway runs from April 2nd, 2013 at 12:00 EST – April 10, 2013 at 12:00am EST.

Thank you and good luck.

Road ID – essential items for runners, cyclists and more

Road ID is the type of product you need but never hope to use. It could in all reality be a life saver. Road ID (www.roadid.com) sells a number of safety products for runners and cyclists that provide a form of personal ID in the event that you are ever incapacitated or unable to help yourself for whatever reason.

I have a few of their products; a ‘Wrist ID Sport’ which I wear for running and cycling, a ‘Wrist ID Slim’ which I wear at all other times (I drive over 100 miles every day round trip from home to work) and a ‘Supernova’ high visibility light. They also sell a ‘Shoe ID’ which attaches to your running shoe and you never have to remember to do anything with that until you swap your shoes out.

Sport ID

Sport ID

Slim ID

Slim ID

Shoe ID

Shoe ID

With the IDs there are two types – ‘Original’ and ‘Active’. The ‘Original’ ID is just that. You list your name and any information and phone numbers you think would be helpful. I purchased the ‘Original’ for my father to attach to his golf shoe. He lists his name and birth year (so first responders can tell his age), shows that he has a heart condition and lists his home number, my mother’s cell number and my cell number for when he is in the US.

I purchased the ‘Active ID’ for both myself and my wife (she has the Shoe ID). This lists my name, birth year, the fact that I wear contact lenses and has a call center number 1-8XX and web address for first responders to connect. On the back there is a serial and pin number. The first responder can call this call center number and this is where the ‘Active’ part comes into play. With the ‘Active’ ID you set up your personal information on a secure site which allows you to document significantly more information that one or two lines on the ID. This has a list of emergency contact numbers, my medical insurance information, my family doctor/dentist/ophthalmologist contact information and lists, my medical history and any current medications. The good part of this is the Emergency Responders are now familiar with this type of product and will look for it. There is an annual fee for this service and in my opinion it is worth the cost when you take into account what you pay for race entry fees and other running gear.

The products are designed for areas of the body (wrist, ankle) where typically an EMT will look for a pulse so they should be easily noticed.

The other product I use is the ‘Supernova’ light. It is a really bright light that I attach to the back of my hat when running in the early hours when it is dark. It is so lightweight you will never notice it. They make accessories to go along with the light such as wrist bands and bike attachments. Its pretty inexpensive and worth the cost.

Supernova light

Supernova light

RoadID often sponsors races and the bibs typically include a $1 coupon that you can use to order products. If you look around you will probably see discount coupons around the internet or in mailings.

It is something I hope I never have to rely on but it does give peace of mind knowing that I have a ‘backup’ system out there.

If you visit the site don’t forget to check out the apparel section. I purchased a couple of running hats and a visor. They are made by Headsweats which is a great brand too. I find them to be perfectly comfortable and perform as designed in keeping me cool and dry during my training and races. They have the RoadID logo on them and plenty of reflective material so I use these on my early morning runs. As they are essentially promotional items they are discounted over the regular non branded Headsweats gear and are a great value.

Visor

Visor

Race hat (my go to hat)

Race hat (my go to hat)

You can purchase directly from their site using this link.