October 2015 – Month in review

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October 2015 – Nike+ Summary

My Nike+ app shows that I ran 143 miles this month. You can see that there is a gap just before the marathon towards the end of the month. I took a few days off before the marathon as my wife was in California and I was looking after the boys and also to rest up my body before the race. I was tired. It’s been a busy year of running already and I was approaching my 3rd marathon of the year combined with a lot of business travel.

Not much cross training. I think I had one session in the pool early on in the month. I had been traveling to Atlanta early in the month and then to Scottsdale. As soon as I got back home my wife had to head to California. Tag team parenting as well as tapering for a marathon has never been so chaotic…but we survived.

Early in the month I had my final long run planned before the marathon. It was supposed to be the first weekend in October. We my niece’s 3rd birthday party early Saturday and my wife was running the Princeton Half Marathon on the Sunday additionally they had predicted Hurricane Joaquin to make an appearance along the east coast. I had little choice but to get up early in my hotel and armed with a Powerade and a bag of Swedish Fish, knock out a 20 miler on the hotel treadmill before breakfast.

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Prepared for the storm!

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Does that really say 2:06am?

This wasn’t my favorite run. I was trying to break in my new shoes for the upcoming marathon. I had bought the newer model of my usual shoe online. Same size. I’ve been in the same shoe for 4 previous models. This model apparently runs a half size smaller. Yup, one heck of a blister. First time ever with this brand. Luckily I was able to go back to the running store and get this remedied before race day.

Once all the training was done we headed to Virginia to run the Marine Corps Marathon. It’s such a great event, regardless of our own personal experience this year. I highly would recommend you look toward this if you have any interest.

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At the Iwo Jima Memorial after completing the 2015 Marine Corps Marathon

The week after the Marine Corps Marathon we ran the 2015 Rock ‘n’ Roll Philadelphia Half Marathon. It was on Halloween so it was a great excuse to run a race in costume. Although it wasn’t a runDisney event we still managed to run in a Disney theme, Alice in Wonderland. Not much of a surprise there. It was a great day weather wise and a great return to finding our pace which did not seem to come with us on our journey to Washington DC!!

Our costume choice - Alice in Wonderland and the King of Hearts

Our costume choice – Alice in Wonderland and the King of Hearts

At the end of the month the early registration opened up for the 2016 New Jersey State Triathlon. If you’ve been following my ‘adventures’ in triathlon you will know that this was to be have been my first event. As it happened it was cancelled mid race and I never got to finish. The organizers offered those who competed and were unable to finish discount towards entry for 2016 which would work in the pre-registration period. I decided to enter again but this time for the Olympic distance in 2016. Fingers crossed. Lots of training to do over the winter to keep my fitness up on the bike and in the pool.

November brings me to the end of my racing season. I have the Philadelphia Marathon coming up the week before Thanksgiving. A very special race for me. It was my first marathon back in 2011 and also the first marathon where I ran under 4 hours back in 2012. I ran again with my wife in 2013 but we missed last year due to being in Florida for Thanksgiving. Hopefully it will be another great race weekend this year. Looking forward to it.

Thank you for reading.

2015 Philadelphia Rock ‘n’ Roll Half Marathon – Race recap

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On Halloween my wife and I ran the Philadelphia Rock ’n’ Roll Half Marathon. This is a race I have run since 2011 and my wife and I have run together since 2012. Every year we seem to say to each other that we should probably skip this race as we have done it so often but somehow we always find a reason to sign up. I will point out that we have already signed up for 2016 thanks to a $50 registration offer that was emailed to us the day after this race. What can I say, I guess this is going to be part of our annual plan going forward.

What was different about this year was the actual event date moved from mid-September to October 31st due to Pope Francis’ visit to Philadelphia falling on the usual race weekend. I guess he has priority (although judging from the pictures when he was here there were far more port-a-potties for that event than the half marathon!!!). With the race falling on Halloween that was just another excuse (should we really need it) to run in costume.

We were unable to attend the expo this year as the race fell on a Saturday and not a Sunday as was always the case on the original dates. My father in law was kind enough to go down to pick up our bibs and race packets on the Friday when we were at work so that was a big help. It’s tough for people coming from out-of-town to do packet pickup for a Saturday race especially of there is no general race day pick up option. They did offer a $30 day of race option but that was limited to 750 participants (out of the 15,000 expected).

Another change in the event was the course this year. On the same day that the race was taking place, Temple University were playing a football game against Notre Dame University. ESPN hit town and they had set up around Independence Mall with an all day pre-game show. The course traditionally (well at least since I’ve been running this event) takes you down past Independence Hall and back up through China Town (behind the Convention Center) up Arch street and back up to the Art Museum. This year the course had to be changed and I hadn’t really taken notice of this until my father in law pointed it out the night before the race.

My wife and I had just completed the Marine Corps Marathon the Sunday before which had been a little rough for us, so heading straight into a half marathon was a little unnerving. Don’t get me wrong, my wife and I had done the Goofy Challenge earlier this year but the difference in that event was that we were feeling great. We struggled the week before during the Marathon. I had realized that my issue was self-inflicted (shoe laces too tight) and I had some nice recovery runs during the week but I was concerned about my wife and how she would hold up.

On race day we picked up my father in law around 5:15am and drove into Philadelphia. We made pretty good time and parked in my usual spot, a parking garage a couple of blocks away from the Art Museum area. It’s about a 10 minute walk from the parking garage to the pre-race area. We arrived just after 6am and my wife refused to get out of the car. I guess she was still tired from her recent trip to California and also still in recovery mode from the previous weeks marathon. My father in law also chimed in and said we didn’t have to be the first people there. Around 6:30am I turned the engine off and reminded them that Rock ’n’ Roll are notorious (at least from my experience and some friends experiences) for being very short on providing port-a-potties. Why take the risk? Last year there were long lines and this is always a big race packed into a small starting area.

It was still dark when we headed out. It was a little colder than planned. My father in law was not in costume and wasn’t very surprised that we were. I’m not sure he totally appreciated our efforts as I was getting into my costume in the parking lot (judging by the eye roll when I put it on!)

Making our way to the starting area. Still the middle of the night if you ask my wife.

Making our way to the starting area. Still the middle of the night if you ask my wife.

Partial costume reveal while my wife is trying to stay warm.

Partial costume reveal while my wife is trying to stay warm.

As we got closer to Eakins Oval where the race started and finished it began to brighten up and we immediately got in line for the bathrooms and then on to bag check. It was a little crowded but we were able to have a bathroom break and gear check done and we went over to one side to stretch before the run.

Sun was breaking as we arrived

Sun was rising as we arrived

My wife and father in law keeping warm pre-race

My wife and father in law keeping warm pre-race

Our costume choice - Alice in Wonderland and the King of Hearts

Our costume choice – Alice in Wonderland and the King of Hearts

As it happened, we were not hanging around too long. We had just finished stretching when we saw a whole bunch of folks sprint past us. People took a quick look and asked who they were. I noticed that they had different bibs from ours and I realized they were the elite athletes who were being transferred from their warm tent somewhere to the front of the corrals. Sure enough, as soon as they passed us we started to hear the National Anthem being sung. We were not even in our corral yet. I was surprised how little time we actually left ourselves pre-race. Not my style really. I’d rather be there early than stress out. We were in corral 10 and my father in law was in corral 22 or 23. We got into our corral and couldn’t see how far back my father in law had to go, so we pulled him in with us. No-one was checking our bibs and he was still wearing a trash bag. Listen, I’m sure he wasn’t the only one in corral 10 who was supposed to be further back, but as I’ll get to later it worked out well.

Waiting for the word to go

Waiting in our corral to be released

The starting line with City Hall in the distance

The starting line with City Hall in the distance

That's a lot of corrals behind us.

That’s a lot of corrals behind us.

I knew there are bunch of people from my running team (the Mickey Milers) in this event and as it was a local race for us there were plenty of other people we knew who were running the event but it was so crowded and we had very little time before the race that we ended up not seeing anyone 😦 although I did bump into Sarah and Matt pre-race which was nice. I got to wish them congratulations on their recent engagement.

The race announcer was British and his name was Ian. I liked him for some reason. Anyway, it was soon our time to go and we wished each other a good race and went off on our way.

I knew early on that the course had changed because there were a tight turn to the right within the first mile. I hadn’t seen the new map but I actually preferred the new route to the event this year. As we could not run down to Independence Hall we now took a route up John F. Kennedy Boulevard and turn back down Market Street before rounding City Hall. In previous years were would have started off similarly but we would have gone down towards Independence Mall and then turned left to go behind the Convention Center. Here the roads are pretty narrow and there are cobble stones (I recall) and some tight turns. The new course took full advantage of the wide streets around City Hall and after the loop around took us back towards the starting area.

Normally we would be hitting the starting area around mile 5 but we had just reached mile 3. They were still releasing the corrals as we passed by. I think it was number 22 at this point and there were more to go. Wow. What a long wait. I’m glad we pulled my father in law in with us. He would have still been waiting to go as we were already 5K in.

I was intrigued as to where they would get the extra mileage from as the loop around the East River and West River Drives is 8 miles. As we approached the Art Museum we took a right hand turn up Spring Garden Street which turned out to be an out-and-back. It was a nice gentle uphill with wide areas on both sides of the median. I actually enjoyed this so much better than the old course. I hope they decide to keep it. We ended up back at the Art Museum at the 5 mile point and from there the course would be the same as previous years.

Course map for the Half Marathon

Course map for the Half Marathon

The changes to the course for 2015

The changes to the course for 2015

With the new course, the great temperatures (now that the sun was up) and the fact that the streets were wide (one of our complaints from the prior weeks Marathon) my wife and I were actually running a decent pace. Where we had both struggled last week it seemed we were different people. It did help that our costumes were getting us a lot of shout outs from the spectators. It’s good to be the King.

We had a very enjoyable run from mile 5 to 8 up to the Falls Bridge. I mentioned that I was looking forward to hearing the rocking bag pipes band that we had seen every year and just as I said that we saw that they were just getting on the stage we were passing. Sadly, we were too fast this year to hear them!!!

The race at this point was no different from prior years. The course was the same. The only difference was that with the timing of the race being in October it was much cooler and less humid than prior years (note – it is back to the original time period of mid-September in 2016) and that there were plenty of people running in costume which was fun. Some were very creative although this was not a runDisney event where you see many people run in costume. For some reason we saw a lot of ‘Waldo’s’ so it wasn’t really hard to find him at this event. The other major difference was that we were kicking it!!!

I ran this race in 2011 and this was my first sub 2 hour marathon. The course is fairly flat and fast. We have run as a couple every year from 2012 and run anywhere between 2:02 and 2:06 together. We were looking at being close to 2 hours at our current pace as long as we could hold it together.

Seeing the 'Rocker' towards the last 5K of the course.

Seeing the ‘Rocker’ towards the last 5K of the course. He’s a lefty.

Enjoying our little costumed run

Enjoying our little costumed run.

With the last couple of miles ahead we focused on our pace. I think my wife was a little uncomfortable. I know she was having a hard time running directly into the sun the last few miles and regretted not bring her sunglasses. Something to do with them not matching her costume. That’s dedication. Me? Sunglasses always…I couldn’t look any worse.

If you haven’t ever run this race before, the finish line is at the bottom of the steps of the Philadelphia Museum of Art (think Rocky). However, the last 0.2 miles are uphill. Very uphill. Yup, we had to power up the hill but we did and crossed the finish line together again. We just missed out on the 2 hour mark with a final time of 2:00:35. So close. Considering how we ran the week before I thought this was an awesome time and we both felt very good so that’s what was great about our final time.

With our medals after crossing the finish line.

With our medals after crossing the finish line.

With our medals after crossing the finish line.

With our medals after crossing the finish line.

Our splits for the half marathon

Our splits for the half marathon

As we made our way out of the finish line area and back to the post run finishers festival we saw two runners who passed us in the last couple of miles. I know there was a costume contest as part of the event and if they were entered I truly hope they won. Awesome costume…especially running a half marathon in jeans!!!

Party on Wayne and Garth!!!

Party on Wayne and Garth!!!

There are always lots of food choices post race but by far my favorite is the chocolate milk. So glad they have this at the finish line. Good stuff.

We went over to pick up our bags and stretch out a little. It wasn’t too long after that my father in law came over. He ran a 2:23 half marathon. I guess putting him up in the higher corral worked to his benefit and he ran a great time.

With the afternoon being full of activities for our boys on Halloween we didn’t really have much time to stick around. The headline act at this Rock ‘n’ Roll race was the Gin Blossoms. My wife knows their music as I think they were big in her high school or college years. I was still in England in those days and was unfamiliar with them so I wasn’t too upset either way. I’m sure it would have been a fun event.

We all had a great run

We all had a great run

Father/Daughter combo

Father/Daughter combo

It's good to be the King

It’s good to be the King

What was nice about the medal this year (after finally using nice ribbons last year) they actually themed the medal around the change in date and it had a Halloween theme to commemorate the event being run on October 31st. Nice touch Rock ‘n’ Roll group.

Our Halloween themed medal

Our Halloween themed medal

As I mentioned very early on in this post, we have already signed up for 2016. We say every year we are going to pass. We figured at the $50 entry fee we may as well sign up. If one of us cannot make it then we are not too much out-of-pocket as the full cost is around $90 I think if we have to decide later. At least we have something on the calendar to work towards. It’s a local race so no matter what I’m sure we will end up running it again the year after too 🙂

Thanks for reading.

August 2015 – Month in review

August 2015 – Nike+ Summary

August 2015 – Nike+ Summary

126 miles this month logged in the Nike app.

August - Map My Fitness

August – Map My Fitness

However 233 miles in training. 126.3 miles running, 100.4 miles of cycling, 6.3 miles of swimming. I think it’s the first month I’ve gone over 100 miles on the bike. I think I’m most proud of how far my swimming has come. This August was 5 years since I set foot in the gym. I’m slowly inching my way up to 7,500 miles since I started recording my runs. 🙂

My running has increased from prior months as I am now ramping up the training to the Marine Corps Marathon this October. I had the pleasure of running 15 miles with my wife one weekend when our boys were visiting the Baseball Hall of Fame with their grandparents. They had fun and so did we. Not a bad deal.

A highlight for me this month was completing my first triathlon at the Medford Lakes Colony Sprint Triathlon. It was lots of fun and the weather cooperated this time. I am actually having fun doing things other than just running and it feels great.

Lots to look forward to in September, October and November. I am all signed up for the Hightstown Triathlon in mid-September. In October my wife and I are running in both the Marine Corps Marathon and on Halloween the Philadelphia Rock and Roll Half Marathon. Finally in November I am running my 4th Philadelphia Marathon and my wife and I are running our annual Bucks County Road Runners Thanksgiving 5 miler. Lots of training to do between now and then.

This is the first year since 2011 that I haven’t a runDisney event on my calendar for January so I have a little break from training this December. My wife and I did sign up for a spring marathon so we will be training again through the winter months. We signed up for the New Jersey Marathon on May 1st. This will be my 3rd New Jersey Marathon (and home of my marathon PR) and my wife’s first. It’s a nice fairly local race so it’ll be fun for us. The plan is that we look for a spring and a fall marathon to run together each year. I like the sound of that.

Thanks for reading.

September 2014 – Month in review

September 2014 – Nike+ Summary

September 2014 – Nike+ Summary

147 miles for this month.

As the month ends my Wife and I are less than three weeks away from the Baltimore Marathon. Most of this month was taken up with the peak of our marathon training. We got quite a number of long runs in over the weekends and various other available times. The end is in sight and the race will be the reward.

This month we ran the Philadelphia Rock ‘n’ Roll Half Marathon for another year. Although it wasn’t our best performance together it was by no means terrible. We put our performance down to fatigue from the marathon training and the surprising heat and humidity on the day which seemed to have impacted a few other folks too. It was a fun day though and also an opportunity for my Father-in-law to join us in an event as he ran his longest distance in many years on that day. That weekend also provided me the opportunity to meet up with some of my Mickey Milers team mates who came in for the race. It was a great weekend all around.

With my Wife and Father-in-law

With my Wife and Father-in-law

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

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

The last weekend of the month was the time for my last 20 mile run of this current marathon training plan. The fact that I was attending my future Brother-in-law’s bachelor weekend notwithstanding, I got up early after about 3 hours sleep and headed out the door for what was planned to be 20 miles. It was strange walking through a casino in Atlantic City, NJ in my running gear knowing that most of the folks on the floor still had not gone to bed from the night before. I started out on the Boardwalk and went up and back a couple of times and ultimately ran through 4 towns (Atlantic City, Ventnor, Margate and Longport….and back) and certainly earned my breakfast buffet at the casino. I ran a couple of miles longer than planned (22 vs 20) but the weather was fantastic and the terrain was flat and so I felt I could do a little more. I timed my run perfectly, arriving back in the room as everyone was still getting ready, hopped in the shower and was down for breakfast within 30 minutes…I almost ate all the calories back that I had just burned. Needless to say I had little else to eat for the rest of the weekend.

Wlaking through Harrahs Casino in Atlantic City, NJ at 4:30am

Wlaking through Harrahs Casino in Atlantic City, NJ at 4:30am not quite fully awake yet

Atlantic Ocean sunrise

Atlantic Ocean sunrise – Mile 7

Lucy the Elephant in Margate, NJ - Mile 9

Lucy the Elephant in Margate, NJ – Mile 9

At the end of the road in Longport NJ - Mile 11

At the end of the road in Longport, NJ – Mile 11

Atlantic City Boardwalk - Mile 19

Atlantic City Boardwalk – Mile 19

Happy to be done - Mile 22

Happy to be done – Mile 22

As the month ended we started thinking about next year’s running events. I had wanted to run the Pittsburgh Marathon for the last two years and it clashed with the New Jersey Marathon in 2013 and the Broad Street Run in 2014. Entry for the 2015 race (held May 3rd) opened up on September 30th and so I coaxed my wife into the idea of visiting her old university town for perhaps the Half Marathon and she actually agreed to sign up with me for the Full. So there you have it, next May we are running the 2015 Pittsburgh Marathon together 🙂

There is a lot to look forward to in the coming weeks/months. In addition to the Baltimore Marathon on October 18th we have a family wedding in November as well as family vacation with my folks who are coming in from England for the wedding. This means that I will be down in Florida for Thanksgiving and will need to hunt down a new Turkey Trot this year. Then shortly after in January we have the Goofy Challenge where we are running for Autism Speaks.

Our fundraising is now kicking into high gear. I recently achieved my fundraising target so now I am working hard to help fundraise for my Wife. The good news is that the charity is allowing us to pool our fundraising together so whatever extra funds I am able to raise over and above my initial target will count towards my Wife’s goal. If you would like to help, please use this link to reach my fundraising page. Thank you.

Also, don’t forget that October (I extended the date by a month) is the last month to sign up and run for one of the virtual races to help raise funds for Autism Awareness and this counts towards my fundraising goals for the year. There are still some great prizes out there to be won as well as some awesome looking medals (although I am slightly biased). Click HERE for the link to the ‘Going Goofy’ 5k and HERE for the ‘Secret Agent 005K’ event.

Thanks for reading and I look forward to next month’s recap as well as a review of the upcoming Baltimore Marathon.

2014 Philadelphia Rock ‘n’ Roll Half Marathon race recap

2014 Philadelphia Rock n Roll Half Marathon

2014 Philadelphia Rock ‘n’ Roll Half Marathon

This weekend I ran the 2014 Philadelphia Rock ‘n’ Roll Half Marathon. I have run this event since 2011 and the last 3 years (2012-2014) I have had the opportunity to run the race alongside my wife, Shari. This was my 15th Half Marathon and 4th this year. With a few years of this race under my belt I feel like I am now able to make some reasonable comparisons to prior years and note what is good/bad compared to the prior years.

The course is the same as in the prior year and takes you from the start along the Benjamin Franklin Parkway, past Independence Hall and the National Constitution Center, through China Town and then the 8 mile loop from the Philadelphia Art Museum up the East River Drive (Kelly Drive) and back down the West River Drive (Martin Luther King Jr. Drive) and finally finishing at the steps of the Art Museum.

Course Map

Course Map

The expo was held as in previous years at the Philadelphia Convention Center. This year the expo was positioned at the far end of the Convention Center near Broad Street. We had parked in our usual place when coming down to this expo and this was much further away (and not very well sign posted). I, like many other runners, entered the wrong end of the building. No big deal but I hadn’t thought to check on this being any different this year.

Bib numbers picked up and ready to Rock 'n' Roll

Bib numbers picked up and ready to Rock ‘n’ Roll

The expo as usual featured Brooks Running as a main sponsor and all the official race gear was Brooks apparel. All this is pretty much full price so I go to see what is new and then look at either the Brooks website or my favorite running store if I want to get something for a little less without the race logo. What was different this year was that the Brooks Run Happy Tour Bus was not present. Last year they had set up some a cool area with some chances to win some Brooks promos and play some games (remember the mechanical shoe/bull?) and they also had a shoe fitting consultation area. Back in 2011 they had a fun area and I think also in 2012. Nothing of that sort was there this year.

Plenty of Brooks race gear

Plenty of Brooks race gear as main sponsor

Once into the expo proper there were the usual vendors you tend to see at expos (One More Mile, Spibelt, Fitletic, etc.) but what was noticeable was that there were few other races represented. There was a small table set aside for the New Jersey Marathon and the Baltimore Marathon but I didn’t see any other races present. There was no runDisney booth as there had been in prior expos. We did see the Atlantic City races and noticed that they have changed their banner (we were on the old one). Even the Rock ‘n’ Roll Series booth was pretty sparse compared to prior years. They used to have some fun props to take pictures and the displays were definitely more ‘blinged out’ in prior years. It was very low key this year.

I did stop by the INKnBURN booth to say hello (I’m an INKnBURN Ambassador) and also managed to buy something else while there. They had a really cool banner on their stall which showed the races they were attending. I was lucky enough to get one of the drop bags that showed this art. Cool. (FYI – If you are interested in any of their gear you can use my Ambassador code for a discount on your purchases. My code is ‘INBians14’).

INKnBURN booth

INKnBURN booth

Cool artwork representing the INKnBURN brand at the Rock 'n' Roll series

Cool artwork representing the INKnBURN brand at the Rock ‘n’ Roll series

Anyway, we got what we came for (our bibs and shirts) and I had plans to meet up with my fellow Mickey Milers for dinner. My wife and the boys headed back home and I stayed around for a while until it was time to meet for dinner. Fortunately the Convention Center is located on top of the Reading Terminal Market and so that is a great place to wander and investigate (plus it got me out of spending any more money at the expo). I grabbed some fresh baked cookies and headed to Maggiano’s Little Italy to meet up with my fellow Mickey Milers who were in from out of town and able to make it to dinner (Janee, Brittany and David). The cookies were good.

Wandering around the Reading Terminal Market

Wandering around the Reading Terminal Market

I grabbed a bakers dozen of fresh cookies

I grabbed a bakers dozen of fresh cookies

Mikey Milers bonding over round carbs

Mikey Milers bonding over round carbs at dinner

At home that night we did our pre-race routine of setting out our gear so that we could be up and out early for race day.

Flat Ian the night before

Flat Ian the night before

Flat Shari the night before

Flat Shari the night before

At 6am on race day we picked up my father-in-law who was running the event too and headed down to Philadelphia. It was a warm morning as we arrived and there was no need for any throwaway shirt or trash bag to wear in the corrals. As we were walking to the corrals I met up with my fellow Mickey Miler, Joe, who I ran with in the Gary Papa 5K back in June. He has been working with a coach and the results are definitely showing.

It was really crowded near the bag check and port-a-potties and it took a while to get through the lines. I wasn’t able to attend the pre-race photo for the Mickey Milers that morning as I was in line. Once we were all checked into the gear trucks we made arrangements with my father-in-law where to meet post-race and Shari and I headed to our corral for the start. We were in corral 7 so not too far back. We saw the last corral (22) starting as we were heading back up the Parkway around mile 4. My father-in-law said he was in his corral (19) for almost 40 minutes before crossing the start line. It was a big race with 15,537 finishers (per the official results).

Arriving at the starting area pre-race

Arriving at the starting area pre-race

Busy morning looking back along corrals

Busy morning looking back along corrals

In our corral waiting for the word to go

In our corral waiting for the start

While standing in our corral my wife mentioned that she wished she had something to drink. I also said I wish I had drunk a little more before we got in the corral. It was a warm and humid morning. It was muggy enough that you could not see the top of the Comcast Tower a few blocks away on Market Street. My wife, of course, found someone she knew in the corral. We just cannot go anywhere without bumping into someone we know 🙂

Cloudy and muggy morning

Cloudy and muggy morning

We set off just a few minutes behind the leaders and started the race. We may have gone out too fast (well, not may, we did) but we had in mind a goal of breaking 2 hours for the day. Around mile 2 we bumped into our friend Mayela and her friend Matt. We have run half marathons in 3 States (including California) and at some point during these races we have run into her. She seems to be our lucky charm.

Running down the Benjamin Franklin Parkway, John F Kennedy Boulevard and Market Street provides a lot of space for the runners as the streets are wide, but then around mile 3 you turn into the older part of the city and then the streets get a little narrower and runners start to bunch up. It is not unbearable but it does get noticeable in spots. However, the run up Arch Street (through Chinatown and behind the Convention Center) leads directly back to the Parkway and the loop around the River which widens up quite a bit.

This is, of course, a Rock ‘n’ Roll race and so we are to expect bands on the course throughout the race. Anyone who is a first timer to these races may be somewhat disappointed by the number of performers out on the course. I think it was similar to the last couple of years so I wasn’t too surprised to see them spread out throughout the course. There were definitely lots of quiet stretches around the river. The Philadelphia Marathon (and Half Marathon) in November seems to have much more enthusiastic and deeper crowds along the route.

One thing of note for anyone considering this race is that for all the half marathons held in Philadelphia that I have run (Rock ‘n’ Roll, Philadelphia Marathon/Half Marathon and the LOVE Run) all have different routes around the city. That is a plus as it does offer variety to the runner and you get a different experience every time. I have to say that my favorite route is the first half of the Philadelphia Marathon.

With it being a warm morning and already being thirsty in addition to having gone out too fast it all began to take its toll on us. Both my wife and I are in the peak of training for the Baltimore Marathon next month and we are in the middle of those 20 mile runs so understandably we are a little fatigued. In addition, my wife worked the day before and was on her feet (and apparently not hydrating too much) while she was working an event. I think it all caught up with us today.

My wife is a speedy little one and we both have half marathon PRs in the low 1:50s so we were thinking 2 hours was definitely possible. We had finished the last two years at 2:05 and 2:03 so we figured we would be around 2:00 without issues. This unfortunately did not turn out to be the case this year. We slowed down but the damage was done around mile 4. My wife developed a bad stich in her side and we took it easy, walked it out when necessary and just plugged through.

Around mile 8 as we cross over the Falls Bridge to the other side of the river she felt a little better and you can see from the splits that we did indeed pick up the pace. It was getting warmer but thankfully the sun was still behind the cloud cover so it wasn’t too hot but it was certainly humid. The last few miles were very much a ‘head down and focus’ effort so nothing too exciting (although of course more people knew my wife out there).

One thing I noticed as did a few other runners along the course with us (and my father-in-law agreed) was that the mile markers seemed off. This is a certified course and I know that we non-elites tend to weave around people a lot but by mile 3 my Garmin GPS watch said 3.25 miles. That 0.25 mile differential was consistent through the rest of the race so I guess those wide roads early on in the race added all that extra distance vs. going at the angles. Oh well, extra calories burned.

We finished the race in 2:07. Not a disaster but I think we were both disappointed. My wife especially was a little disappointed until I pointed out all the factors that I mentioned earlier (fatigue, humidity and dehydration). It wasn’t a bad effort and we were both still smiling at the finish which is what really counts. We will chalk this up to experience and better prepare in the future.

Splits Miles 1 to 10

Splits Miles 1 to 10

Splits Mile 10 to 13

Splits Mile 10 to Finish

We got our medals which for the first time actually had a decent ribbon attached. I guess they read our runners survey comments from the last two years finally. We cooled down and ate a little while we waited for my father-in-law to finish. This was his longest run in many years (he’s making a comeback!!) and he guessed he would run the course in 2:30. He actually finished in 2:31. Nice.

Receiving our medals all smiles

Receiving our medals all smiles

Nice medal (and ribbon)

Nice medal (and ribbon)

We did it

We did it

As we waited we listened to the awards presentation where we learned that Deena Kastor had set 5 (yes 5) Masters records during the day and that the men’s winner had run a 59:20 Half Marathon. Wow. This was followed by ‘Rusted Root’ the headline performers for the post-race concert.

On the way back to our car we bumped into Mayela and her crew and my fellow Mickey Milers who had finished around the same time. Joe broke 2 hours in the Half for a new PR. Well done Joe. After a few pictures we headed back to the parking lot to drive (a slow creep) out of the city and head home for a full afternoon of activities.

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

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

Shari with Mayela and friend

Shari with Mayela and friend

Wearing our race shirts to go apple picking with our boys

Wearing our race shirts to go apple picking with our boys

Overall it was a great weekend and the race result wasn’t too disappointing in the grand scheme of things. Having run this event 4 years in a row now I may look further afield next year for some Fall races. We had a limited schedule this year due to a family wedding and being away during November. I do like the locations for some of the other Rock ‘n’ Roll series races and so I would definitely take an interest in running another one of their events. My wife mentioned another West Coast trip so we shall see.

Thank you for reading.

 

 

2013 Philadelphia Rock ‘n’ Roll Half Marathon race recap

2013 Philadelphia Rock 'n' Roll Half Marathon

2013 Philadelphia Rock ‘n’ Roll Half Marathon

Yesterday my wife and I ran the 2013 Philadelphia Rock ‘n’ Roll Half Marathon. This was my 10th half marathon and it was the third time I have run this event. I first ran this back in 2011 and this was the first half marathon that I ran under 2 hours. Last year this was the first race that my wife and I actually ran together as a couple (we were practising to see if we could stick together as we were training for the Walt Disney World Marathon). We looked forward to this weekend having signed up early.

This was the old Philadelphia Distance Run, a race that I never got a chance to run in. There have been many changes to what was a very famous race and there seemed to be quite a bit of bad press recently about this in the local media. As an average runner who is fairly new to the running I was unaware of the history of the event and reading some of the local stories and their viewpoints I learned quite a bit. Nevertheless, for most runners in the field this was a day to run a half marathon, the weather was perfect and people went out to run their own race.

Race Expo

Race expo and bib pickup

Race expo and bib pickup

I attended the race expo and bib pick up early on Friday afternoon. As usual it was at the Philadelpha Convention Center. Brooks is the big sponsor here so took up a lot of area on the floor. Brooks does a good job of entertaining the runners in attendance and this year was no different. They had a lot of space provided to the official race gear although I didn’t pick up anything for myself this year. They did have some shoe advisors there and I spoke briefly with one of their ‘shoe experts’ about my shoe wear pattern. He provided some advice (he said my shoe wear indicated I had tight hamstrings…more on that later).

Official race gear (Brooks are the main sponsor)

Official race gear (Brooks are the main sponsor)

Official race gear area

Official race gear area

At the side of the race gear the Brooks team had set up some fun areas with games, rides and a gait analysis ‘submarine’. As you can see from these pictures there was quite alot to entertain visitors and plenty of Brooks themed giveaways.

Ride the 'Shoe'

Ride the ‘Shoe’

The Brooks 'Submarine'

The Brooks ‘Submarine’

I visited the Brooks gait analysis (I’ve worn Brooks Adrenaline shoes 2011) just out of curiousity. I ran on the treadmill while they took video and analyzed my gait. Luckily they came up with the Adrenaline’s as the best fit for me (phew…I have 2 pairs on the go and 1 in the box waiting) and also said I could look at the Brooks Trance (more cushion) or the Brooks PureCadence (less shoe) as an alternative stability shoe. Good to know at least.

Get a 'check up'

Getting a ‘check up’

Going to the expo early on Friday afternoon before the mania of the weekend race day meant that the expo was pretty empty. I’m used to expecting to work my way through heavy crowds and so I kind of breezed through the expo fast.

photo 2 (3)

Vendors at the expo

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Vendors at the expo

Without the heavy crowds I was able to stop at a couple of booths and ask questions. I had a couple of questions for the Garmin folks about my new Garmin 310XT and I was able to stop by a few booths of races I was interested in. I’m pleased to say that the picture of my wife and I is still used on the backdrop of the Atlantic City Half Marathon (my 15 minutes of fame). I saw the folks at the Trenton Half Marathon and checked out the medal we will be running for. I also stopped by the ‘Hot Chocolate Run‘ booth…just because. That is a 15K I will definitely be signing up for 🙂

Hot Chocolate 15K booth

Hot Chocolate 15K booth

Chocolate fondue...enough said

Chocolate fondue…enough said

I couldn’t leave the expo without a little Rock and Roll picture opportunity…sorry for this one.

Elvis has definitely left this building

Elvis has definitely left this building

Race Day

I set up my gear the night before as usual. We were starting in Corral 8 with a 2 hour time goal for this race. Both my wife have I have half marathon PRs in the low 1:50s and so we pick this time as an average run time for half marathons and are usually in the same corral.

Ready to roll with my Team runDisney shirt

Ready to roll with my Team runDisney shirt

My wife and I were up early and out the door, picking up my sister in law Rina and her boyfriend Mike at 6.20am. Thankfully there were no traffic incidents on the way down (this is Philly…it can be bad any time of day) and we were able to squeeze into a really small parking space in the Art Museum district. The race starts and finishes by the Philadelphia Museum of Art (as does the Philadelphia Marathon in November). If you are not familiar with Philadelphia these are the steps that Rocky famously ran up in the movie back in the day. The statue from the movie ‘Rocky III’ sits at the base of the stairs and makes an ideal photo opportunity. Here we are with Rocky ‘rocking’ our ProCompression socks.

'Eye Of The Tiger'

‘Eye Of The Tiger’

Bag check wasn’t a problem. We were given clear bags at the expo to check gear and the race instructions advised that no other type of bags would be accepted in bag check. I guess this is now the new normal since Boston. We had no difficulties pre race as there were plenty of porta potties and the lines were no longer than typical for a race of this size. Around 7:45 we headed to the corrals (for an 8am start). There were no announcements telling everyone to get to their corrals and none of the volunteers were checking bibs for the correct corral placements (I guess I am spoiled by my runDisney races). There were not as many announcements from the stage as there were in prior years as I recall. This may be due to the recent news that the sponsors cut appearance fees for the elite athletes a few weeks before the race (see my earlier comments) so I don’t recall hearing from anyone famous at the start line as in prior races. After the National Anthem the countdown for the race began.

My wife and I pre-race

My wife and I pre-race

Looking towards the start line from Corral 8

Looking towards the start line from Corral 8

Looking back at all the corrals behind us waiting for the start

Looking back at all the corrals behind us waiting for the start

The temperatures were great for the race. High 50s going into the low 60s. As the gun went off we set off with me doing my regular run-walk intervals and my wife running ahead a little. I would catch up with her after each break and she would take every 3rd or 4th break with me. We were just about a half mile into the race when the lead runners were already coming back to us at mile 4 on their way up the Parkway. We were about 12 minutes behind the gun time when we crossed the start line.

One thing we noticed on the course was a lack of water stations. The first water station was fine but there was a long break before we reached the second. When we got there the tables were empty. No cups, no water and no volunteers. That was not fun. It was near mile 3 and I could have done with some water. There was a stop just ahead but no volunteers were there to let you know that. It was a little disturbing until I knew that. The road at the first station with Gatorade was awash with spilt Gatorade and you could actually feel your feet sticking as you ran through. A very weird situation. As usual there were bands along the route althout not all were in the Rock ‘n’ Roll theme.

Mummers play along to the crowd on the route in the city

Mummers play along to the crowd on the route in the city

Once past mile 4 we were out of the City and up by the river. This is a really nice part of the course. It is the 8 mile loop which takes in East River (Kelly) and West River (Martin Luther King) Drives. You run out along Boathouse Row, cross the Schuylkill River at the Falls Bridge and run up West River Drive back up to the finish line in front of the Art Museum steps.

Running along Kelly Drive around mile 6 or 7

Running along Kelly Drive around mile 6 or 7

The run along the river is very calm and relaxing. It is quite shaded so this made it very enjoyable. There were a couple of bands out along the river to entertain us. Not much water again. The first water station was on the left side of the road which I didn’t see until almost too late and I made an awkard dash across all 4 lanes to get some water. Not what I like to do but I needed some fluids. There was a water and Gu station at mile 8 just before we crossed the river.

Making the turn at the Falls Bridge

Making the turn at the Falls Bridge

Running up the West River Drive gave a good view of Boathouse Row. It was fun to watch some of the crews out training on the river.

Boathouse Row

Boathouse Row

This is the same area where the City runs many races in Philadelphia including the Philadelphia Marathon and the Philadelphia Tri. Although there were some bands along this side of the river too (inlcuding an incredible bag pipe rock band…yes, you heard that right) it was pretty quiet and peaceful. There were quite a few high school cheerleader squads out to cheer us along which was nice. I have to admit that I feel the crowds in November at the Philadelphia Marathon are deeper and louder.

West River Drive starts to camber severely to the left and then suddently severely left as you run up towards the finish line. It is a slight uphill but you could definitely feel the lean to the sides more than the hill up on the way back in. Around mile 12 the shade of the trees goes and it is a run up the hill towards the finish line. We were looking at a finish time around 2 hours as we reached the last mile but we kept the pace easy and decided not to sprint to the line as we are half way through our marathon training for Philly and already a little achy. We crossed the finish line holding hands and finished in 2:02. Not a bad time and 3 minutes faster than last year so we were both pleased.

Our results.

Our results.

Showing off the hardware

Showing off the hardware

Showing off the hardware

Showing off the hardware

As we crossed the finish line the temperatures had risen and it was getting hotter. We grabbed a couple of bottles of water each. We remembered from the year before that once you left the finish chute you couldn’t get back in and there was no water outside of the finish chute. So this year we made sure to grab extra. In the finish chute there was so much food and as we remembered from last year we barely were able to carry everything out. This year we wised up and grabbed and empty box by one of the food tables and used it as to grab what we needed and carry out the finish area.

For some reason the soft pretzels and bagels were hidden under plastic sheets and there were no volunteers handing them out. Had we not seen someone helping themselves we would not have known it was there. I need my bagel post race. Next up, chocolate milk. I’ll run extra miles for that. Yum. As you can see we got our fill.

Our box of post race goodies. I refueled well.

Our box of post race goodies. I refueled well

We sat at the finish area, stretched and waited for Rina and Mike to finish their races. We caught up on Facebook and shared some photos. The tip from the Brooks shoe guru about tight hamstrings had me stretch quite a bit before the race and I noticed I wasn’t scuffing my feet so much. Thanks for the tip. I recognized Jennifer from ‘The Final Forty‘ blog at the finish line and said a quick hello before heading out to gear bag pick up.

We didn’t have to wait too long for Rina and Mike as they made good time and finished around 2:50. A great run for both. It was also Mike’s first half so that was a great to celebrate with him.

The whole crew with our medals

The whole crew with our medals

Overall it was a fun day. Would I do it again? It’s a local race, the weather seems to cooperate and I always like running down along the river. However, I may look to mix up my Fall schedule next year and run some new races and places.

Thanks for reading.