Mohawk Hudson River Marathon – race recap

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

Earlier in the year I had entered the TCS New York City Marathon lottery with my wife. She got in, I didn’t. That left me looking for another fall marathon just so it would not drive me crazy not having a race during that time. With family located in Albany, NY and the reputation for this being a fast course I did some research into this race. There was also the Hannaford Half Marathon running concurrent to the marathon (essentially the last 13.1 miles of the marathon course) and this distance slotted in nicely with my wife’s NYC training plan. This helped seal the deal and so I signed us up for our respective races.

I knew this was not going to be a big city marathon but I knew there would be a lot of serious runners taking part so I thought this would be a good race for me to attempt and conquer that sub 3:50 marathon that has so far remained elusive to me. With the date set and the training complete we planned our weekend.

We picked up the boys from school and packed our car. The drive to Albany was 180 miles at the end of a long week. The boys were pretty good (i.e. we fed them so they would be quiet) along the route. We stopped just once along the route and as it was a Friday evening we battled some weekend traffic so we didn’t get into Albany until close to 11pm that night. The boys went to bed quickly and we took the opportunity to get a good night’s sleep as we didn’t plan on heading to the expo until late morning.

The expo was being held at the Hilton Albany, NY which was just over a mile from our hotel. Parking nearby was easy and free at weekends. Good to know as I would need to drive to the same location the next morning.

New York State Capital, Albany NY

New York State Capital, Albany NY

Once inside the expo we headed first to pick up our bib and race packets. It wasn’t a huge room nor was it a huge expo but there was plenty to look at and the race merchandise area itself was plentiful and very reasonably priced. We were probably in and out of the expo within 30-40 minutes which included shopping and chatting with the vendors there.

Arriving at the expo

Arriving at the expo

Marathon packet pickup

Marathon packet pickup

Half Marathon packet pick up

Half Marathon packet pickup

Ready or not

Ready or not

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

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

There were some very reasonable prices for marathon gear

There were some very reasonable prices for marathon gear

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A small but busy marathon expo

A small but busy marathon expo

A small but busy marathon expo

A small but busy marathon expo

A small but busy marathon expo

After the expo we headed over to visit family for the day. The plan was for us to spend the day with them and the boys would be sleeping over at their house so we would have someone to look after them in the morning. Both races were point to point races ending in downtown Albany which was about 10 miles or so from where the family is located so it was convenient from them to come out and cheer the next day.

Post expo and ready for race day

Post expo and ready for race day

Meeting up with family

Meeting up with family

We spent that afternoon at a farm in Esparance NY picking pumpkins, walking through a corn maze, doing a scavenger hunt and eating warm apple cider donuts (that was my favorite part). From there we headed back towards home and had an early dinner at a local Italian eatery, where I proceeded to eat the bread basket. After dinner we took the boys over to a local trampoline park to get out whatever energy they had left and then after saying our goodbyes we left them with family and headed back to our hotel to get everything ready for the next day.

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

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

I'm lucky to have this little lady

I’m lucky to have this little lady

I didn’t forget my usual pre-Marathon tradition of a cookie the night before the marathon. There was a Starbucks in the hotel for my convenience.

Was this a potential PR cookie?

Was this a potential PR cookie?

Flat Ian set out for the next day

Flat Ian set out for the next day

We woke up early on Sunday morning. As we were planning to head over to meet up with family after the race we planned to shower there after the race so we checked out of our hotel early and headed over to the where the buses would be shuttling us over to our respective start lines. The hotel seemed to be popular with other runners and we all pretty much departed at the same time. My wife always thinks I make her get up and leave too early. Having other people leaving the same time as me is my only defense to that argument.

It was a 10 minute drive to the center of Albany (if that) and we parked very close to the host hotel. From there we walked down the hill to the bus staging areas. The buses for the full and half marathons were parked on opposite sides of the street and volunteers made sure we got on the correct buses. I said goodbye to Shari and we headed off to grab a seat on our bus.

Nice and early

Nice and early on the bus

My wife was on the bus across the street

My wife was on the bus across the street

The drive from downtown Albany to the start of the race in Central Park Schenectady took about 40 minutes. It was dark when we left but by the time we arrived at the Park it was daylight. I was sitting next to someone running their first marathon. Judging by how he was talking to me about his pacing he was probably a sub 3 hour guy. Not much I could say to him in advice other than to enjoy his first race…he would be done sooner than me.

The race was a point to point race from Schenectady to Albany. The Half marathon followed the same route from the mid point of the course.

The race was a point to point race from Schenectady to Albany. The Half marathon followed the same route from the mid point of the course.

It was a small race in comparison to most of my other marathons. There were just over 1,000 runners according to the final results. There was plenty of space at the starting area and plenty of port-a-potties for all the runners. Lines were not too long. They were definitely prepared for runners.

Well prepared for their target audience

Well prepared for their target audience

As the time got closer to the start I checked my gear bag and put on my large plastic trash bag to keep me warm. I just wish I had cut a larger hole in it to get my head through. I needed a little assistance getting through. Oops. Once appropriately bagged I went over to the start line and waited with my fellow runners. That was until they told us we were standing on the wrong side of the start line.

Ready at the start line

Ready at the start line

There were no corrals as this was a self-seeded race by the honor system. I lined up between the 3:45 and 3:55 pacers. My goal was to go sub 3:50 (my elusive goal time) and I figured if I could keep the 3:45 guy in my sight for most of the race I would come in close. Once the National Anthem had been sung and final instructions given I waited for the word to go.

Waiting for the start of the race

Waiting for the start of the race

Just over 1,00 runners took part in the marathon

Just over 1,00 runners took part in the marathon

I had a plan to set off steady with a run/walk ratio of 4:30/0:30 and set off pretty comfortably. I was within sight of the 3:45 pacer the whole time I was running through the first few miles. These took us around the local neighborhoods until we reached the banks of the Hudson River where we ran on along the Mohawk-Hudson Bike-Hike Trail.

The race is a net downhill and the view from the very high point before we headed towards the river was breathtaking. It was a beautiful day, perfect conditions and the colors of the trees were amazing. I was told it was the prime weekend to see the Adirondacks in the fall. It was amazing.

The beautiful view along the Mohawk-Hudson Hike-Bike trail

The beautiful view along the Mohawk-Hudson Hike-Bike trail

We ran down towards the river past the large General Electric plant and I still had the pacer in sight. In fact although I wasn’t running with the pace group I was running with an informal group of runners who I would keep in touch with between walk breaks. The path was wide enough for 2 to 3 people to run side by side comfortably.

This was just past the General Electric plant

This was just past the General Electric plant

Finally, at around mile 9 as we encountered a slight upgrade a fellow runner came by alongside me and remarked that she was impressed that I was using the Galloway method (she was familiar with it). She said that was running a very good pace and was looking good. That was the worst thing she could have said at that particular moment. I wasn’t thinking about pace, I was just going with the flow. I knew I was maintaining my goal pace but didn’t want to think about it too much. Marathon math is no good to me.

I soon began to fall back from the pace group ahead. I was still in touch with the small group I was running with but with every walk break it was taking me longer and longer to catch up. By the time we reached mile 12 and had to run up the hill to start the second half of the course I was no longer able to see the 3:45 pace group and the small group of runners I had been running with for the last 12 miles were out of my range.

The next few miles were not my happiest but I plodded along. I had developed a side stitch running up the hill which is quite unusual for me and I could feel my heart rate had become elevated. It wouldn’t come down so quickly during walk breaks. I hit the half marathon point at 1:56:32. Still on target for sub 4 hours.

On the second half of the course you encounter a couple of small but steep downhills and also a set of railway tracks. They have timing mats set up around the tracks in case you have to stop for a train. Luckily I was able to avoid any stops. The downhills allowed you to pick up a few seconds here or there but I would soon find that a net downhill does impact your legs more than you would think.

I settled in with another group of runners. I will still on pace for a sub 4 hour marathon but I wasn’t able to maintain a steady pace per mile.

We were away from the bike trail for the next 6 miles as we ran along the highway. It was tight at the side of the road as the race organizers had set the traffic cones on the inside of the lane. The traffic was fairly heavy on the other side of the road as they were open during the time we were running. It was however perfectly safe to run. I tried to stay on the road vs the sidewalk as it was much smoother than the sidewalk which was pretty much concrete slabs which were not always even.

There were 6 miles running along the highway. I chose to run along the road as it was more even underfoot.

There were 6 miles running along the highway. I chose to run along the road as it was more even underfoot. I’m looking tired at this point.

We ran through the small town of Watervliet for a short time. I noticed that there were banners all along the route to commemorate fallen soldiers from the town from World War II. Wow, so many. I could only imagine that this community would have been deeply affected by that time. It was a nice tribute. You had to look up to see the names, battalions and dates of each person but it kept my mind off my running for a while.

As we were close to exiting the town, which was around mile 19, I was passed by the 3:55 pacer. Looking back at my stats, I was holding my own through mile 18. My slowest mile up until that point had been just over 9 minutes per mile. But by mile 19 I started to drop 30 seconds per mile. I wasn’t quite toast…I must have hit the wall but it wasn’t a total collapse.

Just after mile 20 we hit the Bike-Hike trail again. Just as we did that I was passed by the 4 hour pacer. I was determined no other pacers were going to pass me. Although I was now posting miles in the mid 10 minutes per mile I persisted along the path until I was near the finish. Around the last mile I saw an unfortunate runner on the back of an emergency vehicle. He was obviously in a lot of discomfort but he made sure he gave every runner he passed a thumbs up while he was being driven away.

Back on the Hike-Bike trail along the river as we come down to the last few miles.

Back on the Hike-Bike trail along the river as we come down to the last few miles.

Once I hit the last mile I could begin to hear the crowds at the finish. I could see downtown Albany rise above the trees. I looked at my watch. A sub 4 hour race was now out of the question but I knew I could get close to 4 hours. I buckled down and headed into the finish chute determined to cross the finish line.

I crossed the line in 4:04:46. Not my fastest but not my slowest. It is actually my 3rd fastest marathon (I do have two sub 4 hour races). At least I beat out the next pace group.

Always great to finish a marathon

Always great to finish a marathon

The crowds were great. The Bike-Hike trail is narrow so the crowds were close on both sides which was great as you were bearing down on the finish.

Beyond the finish line I was given my medal, a mylar blanket and a bottle of water. Beyond that there was Gatorade and chocolate milk (yeah for chocolate milk). A few steps beyond was the runners village. There they had plenty of food and refreshments. Chips, bagels, water, Gatorade, bars, bananas and more chocolate milk. The Half Marathon (which my wife had run) was sponsored by Hannaford Supermarkets so I’m sure they were the provider for the post-race area.

My finisher medal

My finisher medal

Just beyond the finish line

Just beyond the finish line

The athletes area beyond the finish line

The athletes area beyond the finish line

The athletes area beyond the finish line

The athletes area beyond the finish line

Plenty of post run refreshements for runners

Plenty of post run refreshements for runners

Plenty of post run refreshements for runners

Plenty of post run refreshements for runners

Plenty of post run refreshements for runners

Plenty of post run refreshements for runners

Plenty of post run refreshements for runners

Plenty of post run refreshements for runners

Plenty of post run refreshements for runners

Plenty of post run refreshements for runners

There was also a tent where you could go in with your bib and get an instant race result. This was a big Boston qualifier race (for those who could). They were also selling race merchandise too.

I grabbed my instant results. Ouch...look at that second half!

I grabbed my instant result. Ouch…look at that second half!

What was great was that when I got to the bag check they handed me my bag without me even asking. They must have had a system when they saw someone cross the line the information (bib number) was fed to the bag check people who got the bag out the truck and ready for pickup. Genius!!!

My wife had a great race. She ran 1:53:53 for the half. Close to her PR. She had the advantage of finishing a couple of hours earlier. Both races started at the same time (8am). Our family had brought the boys to the finish line and they were there to cheer her on and see her finish. They were long gone by the time I finished the race. She went back to the house with them and she was ready and showered by the time I got there.

My wife had finished her race a couple of hours earlier

My wife had finished her race a couple of hours earlier

She had great crowd support

She had great crowd support

She had great crowd support

She had great crowd support

Getting back to my car was quite the challenge. I now had to walk back up the hill to my car but first I had to cross the highway back into downtown Albany. While there was a ramp up the bridge there were steps down. Yup. Steps. I’d only run a marathon!!!

Up was easy

Up was easy

Down...not so much

Down…not so much

I’d cooled down quickly by then and the breeze had picked up. By the time I got back to the car I was cold and more than grateful for the fact that my car has heated seats. Once in the car I made the 20 minute drive back to the house where I took a quick shower and changed into some warm dry clothes for the journey home.

As our family had plans that afternoon (they were attending a wedding) we didn’t stay too long. We stopped at a local diner to refuel before heading back home for what turned out to be a 4 hour drive.

That tired and hungry look

That tired and hungry look

I was a little stiff the next day but I put that down to sitting in the car for such a long time so soon after the race. While I have returned home from marathons on the same day before and sat for many hours in a car to do so in the past, for those races I had spent time walking around and sightseeing before jumping into the car. Sitting still is not the best way to recover from a marathon. I think that required me to have an extra couple of days extra rest.

Overall I really enjoyed the race. The course was scenic (for the most part) and the community did come out to cheer us on. I think I have to figure out my own game plan for running a marathon as this was a perfect day to run and the course was set up for a fast race. In fact, the winner broke the course record that day. My wife had also had a great race. I was for the most part having a good run until around mile 16-18 when I tired.

I would recommend the race especially if you are after a BQ. It isn’t too crowded and there are not many turns. It is a fast course. I’d wished we had spent a little extra time there after the race but we all had to get back to work and school the next day. Either way, marathon number 16 was complete and I was very happy.

Thank you for reading.

2016 New Jersey Marathon – race recap

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

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

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

The expo was held at Monmouth Park Racetrack

The expo was held at Monmouth Park Racetrack

 

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The expo was held at Monmouth Park Racetrack

 

Ready for bib pick up

Ready for bib pick up

 

Bib pick up for the half and full marathon

Bib pick up for the half and full marathon

 

Bibs in hand and ready to go

Bibs in hand and ready to go

 

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

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

 

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

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

 

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

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

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

I'm sure they will have one pair my size

I’m sure they will have one pair my size

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

A jockey selfie for good luck

A jockey selfie for good luck

 

My gear all set up the night before

My gear all set up the night before

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

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

A jockey fist bump for good luck!!!

A jockey fist bump for good luck!!!

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

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

Meeting up with Elvin outside of bag check

Meeting up with Elvin outside of bag check

 

Finally made it into our corral

Finally made it into our corral

 

Ready for the word to go

Ready for the word to go

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

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

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

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

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

The course map that was displayed at the expo

The course map that was displayed at the expo

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

On the bus heading back to the starting line

On the bus heading back to the starting line

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

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

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

The marathon finisher medal

The marathon finisher medal

 

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

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

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

Thank you for reading.

2015 Pittsburgh Marathon – Race recap

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On May 3rd my wife and I ran the 2015 Dick’s Sporting Goods Pittsburgh Marathon. This was my 12th full marathon and my wife’s 5th. I guess we are hooked at this point.

I had wanted to run this marathon for a couple of years. Each of the last two years clashed with either the New Jersey Marathon or the Broad Street Run. Both my wife and decided to forgo these options and we signed up last September for Pittsburgh when the race registration opened up. Between September last year and May this year we both ran the Baltimore Marathon and the Walt Disney World Marathon (and Goofy Challenge). I don’t think either of us had taken a break in training since last summer.

We decided to make this a family trip with our two boys as we had wanted to take them to Pittsburgh to show them where my wife had gone to college. She is an alum of Pittsburgh University and my wife and I hadn’t been in Pittsburgh toghether since 2003 and not yet with the boys. Originally we had planned to head out on the Friday afternoon and stay through Sunday but after the hotel debacle at the Baltimore Marathon last year we changed our reservation to arrive on the Saturday and stay through the Monday. At least we would have a place to shower post race! It was also going to be just the four of us on this trip so we had to find someone to look after the boys while we were running. I am thankful for the magic of Facebook and my wife’s connections.

I had been struggling with a back issue since March and so the day before the trip I booked an appointment with my chiropractor to ‘straighten me out’. I always get a realignment before a race but I somehow cannot seem to shift this current issue. So with the adjustment made I took it easy that day and tried to get a good nights sleep. I woke up on Saturday morning and I could barely stand. Not a good start to the weekend. Ahead of me was a 5 hour drive…

We started our day like a usual school day and were out the door around 7:30am. It was a beautiful day and there was little to no traffic for the journey. I was, to say the least, very uncomfortable. I couldn’t sit without pain. Everyone was asleep in the car and I was tossing around the idea of whether or not I would even start the next day. We pulled in at a rest stop after 3 hours to refuel and take a snack break with the boys. I did the best I could to move around and loosen up. Still no good. Oh well…only another 2 hours left to drive 😦

Finally we made it to Pittsburgh and we headed straight to the Expo at the David L. Lawrence Convention Center in the city. We parked as close as we could and headed in. I was still not feeling great. My plan was to find someone offering free massage at the Expo! Worth a try.

We have arrived at the expo

We have arrived at the Expo

Ready for the expo

Ready for the Expo

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Once inside we headed up to the Health and Fitness Expo

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Up these cool stairs to the Expo

The Expo itself was a decent size, there were three concurrent races going on after all (the full, the half and the marathon relay). There were lots of vendors and the room was pretty tight to maneuver. The bib and shirt pickup was on the right of the hall and the packet and race gear bag was on the opposite side…therefore you had to navigate through the Expo to get both. Clever!!!

We are here

We are here – Game On Pittsburgh

Bib pickup

Bib pickup

Shirt pickup. Green for the gents and pink for the ladies

Shirt pickup. Green for the gents and pink for the ladies

I ran ahead and got our gear bags while my wife stayed with the boys who were making cheer signs for us.

The little half of the cheer squad

The little half of the cheer squad

The big half of the cheer squad

The big half of the cheer squad

We then headed to look around the hall. We took turns down each aisle so the boys were being supervised. It was a big and crowded hall and although there was a small children’s area it only kept the boys occupied for so long. Finally when it was my turn to look I found someone demoing a TENS muscle stimulation machine. I sat right down and had the vendor attach the patches all over my back and cranked that sucker up. I made it about 10 minutes before I finally felt okay to move on. It did help a little.

We took the chance to explore the Expo. We saw the actual medal for the first time. Big and heavy. Hey, the slogan is ‘Runner of Steel’ for a reason you know. We also were able to find ourselves on the wall of entrants to the race. Cool.

Here it is. Tomorrow's reward

Here it is. Tomorrow’s reward

Wall of entrants

Wall of entrants

Hey, I know these people

Hey, I know these people

Bridge photo op!!!

Bridge photo op!!!

Official merchandise section

Official merchandise section

This was actually one of the first Expos where both my wife and I walked out empty handed. We were looking for a cool Pittsburgh Marathon souvenir but by the time we got to the Expo on Saturday afternoon there was no merchandise left save for a few baseball caps and some cotton tees. Disappointing to say the least. No mugs, cups, or anything similar. 😦 At least I was able to move again.

We headed from the Expo to our hotel. We had booked at the Doubletree in Bigelow Square which was less than a mile from the starting area…and happened to also be less than a mile from the Expo. Wish I had known that before I threw the car in the expensive parking lot!!! A cool touch when arriving at the hotel was that if you told them you were checking in for the Marathon they provided you with a specially themed roomed key.

The hotel room keys were branded with the Marathon logo for guests

The hotel room keys were branded with the Marathon logo for guests

We set ourselves up in the room. I went to lay down for a rest after the long drive and the boys played in the room (we had a suite) while my wife went out for a walk around the area to scope things out. When she got back we got ready to meet up with an old college friend of hers for dinner. We took a trip out of the city and into the suburbs and met up with them at Bucca di Beppo in Robinson Town Center. It was a nice dinner and the friends had two children the same ages as ours so it was a really pleasant and relaxing evening.

As we headed out of the restaurant my wife spotted an Eat ‘n’ Park restaurant. I had been talking with the boys about these special cookies that they are famous for. I did what was probably an illegal u-turn, pulled into the parking lot and told the boys to wait in the car with their Mommy. I’d be back in a few minutes 🙂

Part of the Pittsburgh experience and not to be missed (by us anyway)

Part of the Pittsburgh experience and not to be missed (by us anyway)

A few minutes later I stepped back in the car with a box of cookies and we took the best family photo ever!!

Raising our kids right

Raising our kids right. Cookies before bedtime.

Thus, I continued my usual tradition of a cookie the night before a marathon. The boys were tired enough even the sugar cookies didn’t keep them up too long after.

With the race the next day I set out my gear and set about rolling out my muscles with my Tiger Tail stick massager. My wife worked deep on my back and I finally felt like I was able to move enough without too much discomfort. With that I hit the pillow and waited for the morning alarm call.

Ready for the big day

Ready for the big day

We woke up around 4am as we had told the babysitter that the roads would be closing and they she should get there early. The good news was that I felt so much better than the day before. Not pain free but totally not to the point that I was bothered by anything. I was going to make it after all (to the start line at least). Both my wife and I were up and dressed by the time the babysitter arrived. She was early…and on a bike. Genius!!! Had we known she was going to cycle in we would have told her a much later time.

Rather than sit in the room with the babysitter we decided to head down to the lobby around 5:15am where the hotel had set up pre-race refreshments for the runners staying in the hotel.

One of us was more awake than the other

One of us was more awake than the other

Pre-race food. Can you tell what was missing?

Pre-race food. Can you tell what was missing?

Yes, they even had a security guard at the table

Yes, they even had a security guard at the table

We watched as a steady stream of runners came down to pick up some food. Each and every one who came down asked for coffee. Yup, that was what was missing. Unbelievable. It was 5am and the hotel did not provide any coffee even as more and more people were requesting it. They didn’t think to send someone over to the kitchen. They told folks that there was a Starbucks up the street. I’m not sure about you but I don’t know many Starbucks that open up at 5am on a Sunday morning. Oh well, the 7-11 was also nearby. But that opens up at…you guessed it…7am!!!! So with no coffee, people grabbed food and headed back to their rooms or milled around the lobby.

Around 6:15am we decided to make our way over to the starting corrals. They were laid out in specific streets. Corrals were between blocks with an empty street between for foot traffic before the start and when the corrals moved up. We checked our bags and hit the portapotties one last time. It was a chilly in the air and we used old mylar blankets from a previous race until it was time to start.

Keeping toasty in our mylar

Keeping toasty in our mylar

Corrals were set up within city blocks

Corrals were set up within city blocks

Approaching the start line. Almost showtime.

Approaching the start line. Almost showtime.

Okay....SHOWTIME!!!

Okay….SHOWTIME!!!

And we were off

And we were off

Enjoying the sights and sounds of the City

Enjoying the sights and sounds of the City

Pittsburgh Marathon course map

Pittsburgh Marathon course map

It didn’t take us too long to get warmed up as we started the race. The water stations were frequent and plentiful. The best part of this course was that it took you pretty much around the City and it’s surrounding neighborhoods. The course kind of reminded me of how we got to see a lot of Baltimore when we ran the marathon there last October. We were passing through neighborhood after neighborhood but the neat thing about this course was that we were crossing back and forth over the river. The first half of the course crossed 5 bridges.

Bridge #1 - Rachel Carson Bridge

Bridge #1 – 16th Street Bridge

All the bridges had the same color scheme through the City. Very cool.

All the bridges had the same color scheme through the City. Very cool.

Bridge #2 - Rachel Carson Bridge

Bridge #2 – Rachel Carson Bridge

...and of course, the 'jump shot'

…and of course, the ‘jump shot’

I'm assuming we are crossing this one next!

I’m assuming we are crossing this one next!

We then headed over to our third bridge, the Andy Warhol Bridge.

Bridge #3 - Andy Warhol Bridge

Bridge #3 – Andy Warhol Bridge

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I was getting used to this view.

I was getting used to this view.

By mile 7 were were approaching our 4th bridge. As we were still running along the river we hadn’t experience much elevation save for the up and over the bridges. I knew that there were hills to come. We took it fairly easy, comfortable but making a good pace (averaging around a 10 min/mile pace). Running along the river were approached the ‘Duquesne Incline’ which gave us a bit of a hint as to how much hillier the second half of the course would be.

At the 'Incline'

At the ‘Duquesne Incline’

Go Pitt!

Go Pitt!

At mile 11 we hit the 5th and final bridge. This was by far the biggest bridge we had crossed so far and it was also at this point that the half and full marathons split off into their respective directions.

Bridge #5 - Birmingham Bridge

Bridge #5 – Birmingham Bridge

As we got across the bridge we were directed to the right which would lead us up an almost mile long incline up to Oakland and the University of Pittsburgh campus. We took it slowly up the hill and as we went steadily we were able to make it up to the top without having to stop beyond our normal Galloway run/walk breaks. My wife was getting excited to be running back to her old campus and seeing it from a new perspective.

I think using the shuttle may be considered cheating in a marathon

I think using the shuttle may be considered cheating in a marathon

Oooh...Primanti's...they make very good sandwiches (with the french fries inside the sandwich)

Oooh…Primanti’s…they make very good sandwiches (with the french fries inside the sandwich)

She was so happy to be back on Campus

She was so happy to be back on Campus

So of course there had to be another jump shot

So of course there had to be another jump shot

As we ran through the campus we made sure to stop and take some pictures and also make note of places to take the boys back later and show them.

With the Pittsburgh Panther

With the Pittsburgh Panther

Outside the Cathedral of Learning

Outside the Cathedral of Learning

Outside the Cathedral of Learning

Outside the Cathedral of Learning

We stopped outside the Cathedral of Learning. It is such an impressive building. We were lucky enough on our last visit to get a tour of the special nationality classrooms inside. Worth a visit for sure.

Once through Oakland we passed through lots of residential neighborhoods. There were many people who came out on the streets to cheer the runners on. The day was getting hotter and hotter as the hours progressed. Volunteers were handing out orange slices and many of the water stations were handing out wet cloths to keep runners cool. We were hydrating at every water station. Typically I rotate between a sports drink and water between each station but for this race as the temperature was rising I was taking both at each station.

Crowds came out to cheer on runners

Crowds came out to cheer on runners

Always look for fun signs. This was a good one.

Always look for fun signs. This was a good one.

As we approached mile 17 to 18, my wife started to feel uncomfortable with her knee. We took a few extra seconds each walk break but I could see she wasn’t comfortable. She had a similar issue at the Baltimore Marathon but that was much later in the race and when we ran the Walt Disney World Marathon earlier this year she had a great run with no pain. By mile 19 we had to head over to the medical tent where my wife was able to apply some icy/hot cream to the area (she usually carries a small tube but forgot this time) and she also took a couple of Tylenol. The medic marked her bib accordingly that she had taken something and made her take another drink before moving on.

We took it slow and steady. The goal now was just to finish. We were slowing down so not looking to get her a PR. We just had to finish. The good news that from mile 19 onwards it was pretty much all downhill towards the finish line. We did quite a bit of walking. We abandoned our usual run/walk schedule until she felt comfortable enough to continue and then just took the approach that we would run until a certain landmark, walk for a bit until we hit another landmark and then run again. That seemed to work and as we approached mile 25 I could see the determination on her face to finish. My back had begun to twinge when we stopped at the medical tent and I felt like I had stiffened up a little while we stayed there but once I started moving again I was able to deal with it.

Finally…and yes I do mean finally…we hit mile 25. I think that many of the problems we were experiencing may have been due to the heat. Despite drinking two cups at each water station by the time I hit mile 25 my shirt was bone dry. It was hot out there. Not humid, hot.

Finally we rounded the corner and saw the finish line. We ran the last half mile hand in hand and as we did so we ran past an announcer who was just ahead of the finish line. She called out our names over the loudspeaker as we crossed over. The sense of relief was great. I was feeling ok but my wife seemed more than pleased that it was over for now. Our time was 4:50. Even with all the stops and walking more than usual we were only a few minutes shy of my wife’s PR. At the end it wasn’t so bad after all.

We made it!

We made it!

Pleased to be done and despite the discomfort, totally happy with the race.

Pleased to be done and despite the discomfort, totally happy with the race.

Yeah...Marathon #5 in the books

Yeah…Marathon #5 in the books

...and Marathon #12 for me.

…and Marathon #12 for me.

After taking in some water and some food (thank you Panera Bread) we made our way over to the finishers village.

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Don’t forget the cookies…

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And that's why we run!!!

And that’s why we run!!!

Runners of Steel

Runners of Steel

5, yes 5!

Marathon #5, yes 5!

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Pleased with our day

We had a great time. We really enjoyed the course. The crowds were great and the support was all over the course. I would totally recommend this as a destination race if you are not from Pennsylvania. It was a well run event and although it was a hot day the volunteers were prepared to look after everyone on the course.

After making our way back to the hotel to relieve the babysitter (she says the kids were actually well behaved). We quickly showered and within the hour we were out and about for an afternoon of activities.

A quick shower and change, Looking happy and feeling much better.

A quick shower and change, Looking happy and feeling much better.

First stop, Station Square.

First stop, Station Square.

We took the boys to Station Square where we saw a fun little fountain show. It was hot and the boys loved getting just a little wet. From there we crossed over the street to the Duquesne Incline which we had run past earlier in the day.

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The Duquesne Incline

 

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View from the bottom looking up

Asher was a little uncertain

Asher was a little uncertain

Asher was a little uncertain…maybe because his older brother told him it was a thrill ride and that you would go up really slowly and then drop down the hill at speed. Think Walt Disney World’s ‘Tower of Terror’. Not very nice but his reaction was priceless.

View from the observation deck at the top.

View from the observation deck at the top.

We ran this town

We ran this town

My favorite running buddy

My favorite running buddy

Time to follow directions

Time to follow directions

It was earned and it was good

It was earned and it was good

After we went back down the incline (Asher wanted to ride it all day now) we headed over to the University Campus as we had dinner plans with another of my wife’s friends. We got there early and had time to look around the campus.

The future students outside the Cathedral of Learning

The future students outside the Cathedral of Learning

Apparently he's a big fan of Gene Kelly. Who knew?

Apparently he’s a big fan of Gene Kelly. Who knew?

We had a great meal with friends at a restaurant on campus which my wife had remembered. It had been a long day but we still managed to head over to another old favorite place of hers for ice cream. Yum.

I think I did enough for my ice cream.

I think I did enough for my ice cream.

Now that the race was over and we were both feeling a little better we could take advantage of being on vacation for the next day.

We caught up a little on sleep

We caught up a little on sleep

The next day we headed down to the campus again to pick up some University of Pittsburgh gear seeing as we hadn’t been able to get any souvenirs at the Expo before the race. We also visited around the campus and saw all the places my wife had lived when she studied there. She was really excited to show the boys around and also to investigate the newer areas of campus which hadn’t been around when she was there. It was a really enjoyable day and the boys seemed to be taking it all in and having fun.

Outside the basketball arena

Outside the basketball arena – the little guy is in there somewhere

After a long day in the sunshine we left Pittsburgh around 3pm to make the long drive home. Everyone agreed it had been a great trip and my wife and I agreed that it was worth it for the race itself. It was great to say that we are both ‘Runners of Steel’

🙂

2015 Rutgers UNITE Half Marathon – Race recap

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It has been a very long winter and as a result I haven’t been able to get outside to run too much over the last few months. So with that in mind I was looking for a spring race to get me ready for the upcoming season and as a tune up for the Pittsburgh Marathon next month (May 3rd). I had a choice of running the Bucks County Half Marathon in Tyler Park which I have run 3 times already or try for something new. As I listen to my friend John’s ‘The Runner Of A Certain Age‘ podcast (as well as being a guest now and again) I decided based upon his review from the prior year to sign up for the Rutgers UNITE Half Marathon.

2015 Rutgers UNITE Half Marathon Course

2015 Rutgers UNITE Half Marathon Course

The Rutgers UNITE Half Marathon is put on by the CGI Racing team and they are responsible for other races such as the LOVE Run Half Marathon which I ran last year and also the New Jersey State Triathlon which I signed up for this year (my first triathlon) and I’ve had a good experience with this organization in the past.

So, before we start, I have to confess that I messed up a little with the planning. I know that locally Rutgers has a campus in Camden, NJ which is not too far away and is an area where I have run races before (Benjamin Franklin Bridge 10K) and we live not to far away from Rider University. For some reason in my mind I thought I would be running locally. Not so much. The main Rutgers University Campus is up in Piscataway, NJ which is over 45 miles away and a good hours drive. Hmmm….

Once I figured out that I realized my mistake in not signing up for race day packet pickup. I had to travel up to Piscataway the day before and on the day of the race. I probably spent more on gas and tolls than the cost of the race day packet pickup. Now before you think I’m completely crazy my experience of race day packet pick up is fine if I was to run a 5K or 10K but I don’t want to feel rushed before a half or a full marathon. In fact, based upon my experience with the LOVE Run marathon from CGI the year before it was a big race and I didn’t fancy the idea of fighting the crowds. Also, the race guide talked about parking at the starting area or the finish area and shuttling to and from. I didn’t want to deal with that on top of this all.

On the day before the race I got up early to be at the race expo as it opened so I could get back home and not be too disruptive to our planned family activities. I didn’t know at the time that it was Rutgers Open House weekend. The weather was beautiful and it was an easy drive for the most part. It took me under an hour to get to the campus but once upon arriving it took me almost 20 minutes to get into the parking area for packet pickup.

Finally made it to the expo

Finally made it to the expo

The packet pickup was at the Sonny Werblin Recreation Center. It was a busy morning there. There were swim meets going on, there were other sports being played so there was a quite the foot traffic inside. The expo however was well signed and separate from all the general hubbub outside.

The expo itself was held inside a large gymnasium. It wasn’t huge but it was set up clearly. As you entered there was a small area for a speaker series and next to that a desk to look up your race number if you didn’t already have it with you. Then at the far end of the hall was the bib pick up and next to that the shirt pick up.

Expo set up

Expo set up

Bib and t-shirt pick up

Bib and t-shirt pick up

Race mugs

Race mugs

There weren’t too many vendors displaying. The National Running Center was there for any last-minute purchases as well as a local therapy provider giving back massages. Also, one of the sponsors (Agua Enerviva) and a local fitness equipment dealer. They also had a table to pick up your souvenir mug. This is quite a nice perk and something I also received when I ran the LOVE Run last year.

I got what I came for

I got what I came for

Ready for the next day's activities

Ready for the next day’s activities

In hindsight this would have been an ideal race for same day packet pick up. I would highly recommend this option if you are going to sign up for this event. The race itself isn’t small but it isn’t a huge field and there is ample parking at the start line area which is right next to the start line. Also, I met up with John at packet pickup and it was calm and orderly and well run.

Race day arrival

Race day arrival

Race day arrival

Race day arrival

Race day arrival was very easy. The drive, the parking on campus and the whole traffic flow was a breeze. I arrived with plenty of time before the start of the race to stretch, use the port-a-potties and loosen up. I headed down to the packet pick up area to meet John before the start of the race. I always like to meet up with people I know before a race as just chatting with and hanging out with people helps calm the nerves and just generally lifts my spirits before a race.

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

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

It was a little chilly at the start but I knew it was going to warm up based on the forecast. The sky was clear and the sun was out. I pulled a mylar blanket out of my check bag to wear while waiting in the corral with a plan to throw it out just before crossing the start line (TIP – if you have mylar blankets handed to you at a race keep them for future races so you can stay warm in the corral of another race).

I walked to the corrals with John and we noted that the corrals were set up by pace per mile not any designated letter. I left John at his prefered pace and I moved up towards the 8:00-9:00 pace area. I didn’t notice any side entrances for the corrals so I had to move slowly through the crowd (politely I may add) to get to where I was going. Once there I settled in and waited for the National Anthem and the starting signal. The start was about 5 minutes delayed but the crowd seemed to be cheery enough. After all, this was some of the best weather we had experienced here in a long time!!!

Foiled up and ready to run

Foiled up and ready to run

My goal for this race was to see what I had in me after a long winter of running indoors. I recently have been struggling with injury. I tweaked my back and pelvis shovelling snow during the last couple of snow storms we had. As a result of the injury I had taken a full week off from running. If you know me that is a big deal. I was also on antibiotics for chest infection and back on Ventolin for my asthma (for the first time in three years). Also, with the upcoming Pittsburgh Marathon I wanted to try out some gear in race conditions. I have recently been experimenting with Injinji running socks and although I had already run some longer distances in them I was playing around with the thickness options they have (original weight vs medium weight). My goal therefore was to see if I could comfortably be under 2 hours. With a time goal in mind I didn’t get a chance to take too many pictures on route.

The course itself takes you around the Livingston Campus and Busch Campus for the first 9 miles before you cross over the bridge to Johnson Park and then finally through to the finish along College Avenue. It is not flat and fast as was advertised as there were a number of turns involved on the course and some gently rolling hills but nothing that would lend me to say this was a hilly course.

There were plenty of water stations on the course but very sparse spectators, although it should be remarked that this was very early on a Sunday morning on a college campus so I cannot imagine how many students would really be up early. The weather was fantastic and really made for a relaxing run. It actually felt like I was out for a simple weekend long run. The race wasn’t too large so as a runner you had plenty of space to move around and although the streets were a little narrow in places you never felt jammed in.

The first few miles ticked away and everyone just set into their own pace. I had started out with the 9:00 minute pace group but soon passed their leader and headed out for my own race.

Having never been to college here it was nice to see the campus. I was impressed by the amount of space that there was and that the campus looked pretty well looked after. The roads were a little cut up but I think that was a result of the harsh winter we had and the toll it took on the roadways. You had to be a little careful with footing in some places.

Around mile 7-8 we started heading back towards the start line area and in fact headed back up the starting chute for the second part of the race. It was around here that we started experiencing the first of many of the turn arounds. I hadn’t really studied the course map too much and you can never really tell the detail from a picture but from mile 9 onwards there were four hairpin turnarounds. I’m not usually a big fan of turnarounds but based upon the need to squeeze 13 miles into their campus I understand what needs to be done.

I settled into a pretty good rhythm and was really enjoying the scenery of the campus and also the park when we crossed over the bridge. Once we entered into the park we stayed along the pathway and ran from one hairpin turnaround to the other. That was probably the least enjoyable part (but still enjoyable race) and we saw a few more spectators on that side of the course as other people were getting along with their own activities in the park at that time of the morning.

Heading towards mile 12 all I could see ahead of me was a hill. Uh oh I thought. I was just beginning to feel a little tired at that point. Before the hill however we had to turn right into Buccleuch Park for what turned out to be the final turnaround of the race. At least this wasn’t a hairpin as we got to run around a little gazebo.

Buccleuch Park Gazebo

Buccleuch Park Gazebo

Once out of the park we had to tackle that hill I had seen confronting us as we entered. To my surprise it had just been a trick of the eye. Yes, there was a an uphill to run but it was short and not as steep as it looked and once you hit the crown you could see pretty much all the way down College Avenue to the finish line.

The run down College Avenue was so nice. It is a natural chute funneling you to the finish. Crowds were lined on both sides of the street and they were cheering you along. The downhill wasn’t to steep and allowed you to just glide through the finish. I felt great at that point. I was running around 8:33 pace which was the best I had achieved in a while and I felt comfortable doing it. I crossed the finish line with a time of 1:53:49. Well under two hours and within a couple of minutes of my half marathon PR. I was very pleased with the result.

I crossed the finish line and received my medal and also was handed a bottle of water. It had warmed up quite a bit at this point. Not too hot but was just a beautiful day.

Feeling great at the finish

Feeling great at the finish

By the way, my choice of outfit was my new INKnBURN Flow shirt. I think it was a perfect choice and very comfortable for the conditions. This has become my favorite shirt recently. I had been trying to decide between this shirt and my Mickey Milers shirt (as I was meeting up with fellow Miler John) but went with this combo. The socks worked out great too. I would recommend trying a pair if you get the chance. A little weird to look at and to put on but if you are prone to blisters these offer great protection.

After coming through the finish line chute we turned left to the post race area. The campus was ideal for a post race area as the streets were wide, the crowds were separated to the family reunion area and there was a lot of green space to stretch out and relax.

Post race area

Post race area – nice and open space

Post race area

Post race area – a great place to chill

The food tent was labeled clearly for runners only and they checked your bib to go through. I was very grateful for the soft pretzel. What I didn’t see was any sports drink to replenish any lost electrolytes. That was probably my only complaint.

Food station marked for runners

Food station marked for runners

Very ordered food hand out

Very ordered food hand out

One of the best post race treats

One of the best post race treats

The medal was a decent size but a little ‘lightweight’ and a little plain. Also, on the medal and on the ribbon it said ‘Half Marathon and 8K’. I wasn’t sure if this was the same medal handed to people who ran the 8K also. That seemed a little strange that these wouldn’t be unique to the race.

With my medal

With my medal

Front of the medal

Front of the medal

Back of the medal

Back of the medal

Note the ribbon says Half Marathon and 8K

Note the ribbon says Half Marathon and 8K

Overall though I would totally recommend this race. Timing was perfect, we lucked out with the weather, the course was enjoyable and the size of the field made it feel like a big race without being a big race (i.e. plenty of room to move about). I would recommend that if you register for this race (and you should if you are nearby) you opt for race day packet pick up as the expo wasn’t a compelling reason to go twice in two days.

John and I spoke about this race on his podcast. Here is the link to the episode (Episode 35 – It’s A Beautiful Morning Edition’).

Thanks for reading.

2014 Baltimore Marathon race recap

Baltimore Running Festival 2014

Baltimore Running Festival 2014

It’s a hill…get over it.

Last weekend my wife and I ran the Baltimore Marathon (one of the events of the Baltimore Running Festival). It was my wife’s 3rd full marathon and my 10th (I cannot believe I just said that). It was a great weekend and even before I go into the race recap I will say that I would have to recommend the race to anyone looking for a Fall marathon.

The reason we chose to run this marathon is that we had originally hoped to run the Philadelphia Marathon again but had a family wedding leading up to the date and would be out of town on marathon weekend. We looked around to see other races which were within driving distance around the same date and we considered Hartford and Atlantic City as these didn’t have lotteries like New York City, Chicago and Marine Corps, and ultimately decided on Baltimore. This was definitely a good choice for us.

I have to say a word about the race directors from Corrigan Sports. They did a great job at communicating with the runners before, during and after the event. Their enthusiasm for this event really shows and it made for a smooth and memorable experience.

There were a couple of minor bumps in the road before race day. First, I called our hotel, the Days Inn Inner Harbor Baltimore, on the Tuesday before the weekend just to check on the reservation and to request a late checkout so we would have time to get back and shower after the race. This was a partner hotel and very close to the start/finish line. I didn’t think that would be too much of a problem, however, the lady who I spoke to said that the hotel didn’t offer any late checkout and that we had to be out of our room by 11am. What?!?!?

My reservation said 12pm but she said adamantly that we would have to be out by 11am. Now, if you haven’t noticed yet, my wife and I are not elite Kenyan athletes. Even with the start of the race being moved back by 1 hour to 7am (this was announced earlier in the week in the event that the Baltimore Orioles would still be in the post season) there was no way even with a PR that we would be back at the hotel by 11am.  I spent the next couple of hours frantically trying to call around other hotels to see what I could do. No options other than spending $500 for an extra night at the Marriott. We had planned to sleep in Baltimore on Friday and come home after the race so our boys would only be out with my in-laws one night. Hmm…we needed to figure something out or we would be achy and stinky on the drive home. This is where my wife came to the rescue. I will explain later (I have to give some suspense to this blog post otherwise it is just me writing endlessly).

The second bump in the road was that both my wife and I (my wife more than me) started to suffer some really bad cold symptoms in the days leading up to the race. We both ended up calling into the doctor for a prescription the day before we headed out so that we could get some meds in us prior to race day. Thankfully they were quick acting although we were pretty much knocked out early in the evenings and so managed to catch up on a little sleep prior to race day.

We dropped our boys off at school on Friday morning and headed to Baltimore. It took about 2.5 hours and was a fairly easy drive (with the exception of the extra 10 miles when I missed the exit). Once in Baltimore it was fairly easy to find our hotel and park. The Baltimore Convention Center was opposite the hotel and so we checked in, freshened up and headed over to the Expo to pick up our bibs, race shirts and spend money (the last thing being optional but inevitable).

Arriving at the Expo

Arriving at the Expo

We got in line for our bibs before entering the main hall. Our numbers were 2390 and 2391 and we lined up to get our bibs from none other than Sid Busch (the human mascot for the BRF and all round great guy). It was nice to see Sid again. We had first met him back during the 2013 Walt Disney World Family 5K and I had met up with him for lunch back in January of this year. This was to be his 196 marathon. Sid runs in memory of fallen soldiers carrying their pictures on the back of his race shirt and he carries the Stars and Stripes with him the full length of the course. Like I said, great guy.

Sid Busch - one of the two race mascots

Sid Busch – one of the two race mascots

Once we got our bibs we headed into the expo to get our race shirts. Baltimore is the home city of Under Armor who also provided the official race apparel. I only have one piece of Under Armor gear (a compression under shirt that I wear on cold days to run) so wasn’t too familiar with their stuff although I knew the brand. I have to say that the race shirt was really nice. They didn’t skimp on the quality of any of the race apparel. When I signed up I had requested a men’s large shirt. When I tried this in it looked a little loose and baggy and I was wondering if they would let me exchange. One of the volunteers pointed me to an official exchange station. I thought this was quite a clever idea. I got to go over and try on the other sizes and exchange my shirt for a medium means still sealed in the bag. Nice.

Entering the expo

Entering the expo

Shirt pickup

Shirt pickup

A dedicated shirt exchange area

A dedicated shirt exchange area

The expo wasn’t too big and my wife and I went through quite quickly. Nothing really different stood out that we hadn’t seen in recent expos. It was much smaller than the recent Rock ‘n’ Roll expo we had attended in Philadelphia last month. The biggest presence by far was the Under Armour area. Hey, they were on home turf so I guess they got the biggest share.

Under Armour were the official race gear providers

Under Armour were the official race gear providers

A nice range of gear for all races during the weekend

A nice range of gear for all races during the weekend

The expo wasn't overly big

The expo wasn’t overly big

Under Armour had a decent size area set aside

Under Armour had a decent size area set aside

Under Armour had a decent size area set aside

Under Armour had a decent size area set aside

Under Armour had a decent size area set aside

Under Armour had a decent size area set aside

Heading out of the expo - the escalator wasn't working... a perfect stair workout before the marathon!!!

Heading out of the expo – the escalator wasn’t working… a perfect stair workout before the marathon!!!

With the expo over we dropped off our bags of swag back in the hotel room and set out to explore a little of the Inner Harbor area. We have visited Baltimore as a family a couple of times but without the boys in tow we could walk around and take our time. We eventually made our way across to the Little Italy area as we had an early dinner reservation. They have done a nice rehab on the area by the water and we stopped to look in a couple of the stores (Lululemon for my wife and I stopped to look in the Under Armour store). We didn’t know that we would be running by this area the next day. Frankly I hadn’t really studied the course map too much as I didn’t really know the city layout too well. I should have taken more attention of the cobblestones along the streets (more on that later) but at the time I was sticking to the pavement.

Enjoying some free time around the Inner Harbor area

Enjoying some free time around the Inner Harbor area

Surprisingly I didn't find anything to buy

Surprisingly I didn’t find anything to buy

We had a great dinner at Amicci’s in Little Italy. I am glad we had a reservation as the place was packed. People were lining up in the street outside but the time we left. It seemed to be a very popular restaurant for some of the visiting marathoners. My wife had found this by doing some on line research but coincidentally it was also recommended by people we know who used to live in the Baltimore area.

Amicci's - Little Italy

Amicci’s – Little Italy

Amicci's was a great find for our pre-race dinner

Amicci’s was a great find for our pre-race dinner

After dinner we took a leisurely walk back towards our hotel and as we were close by we decided to take a walk down to the starting line area. It was fairly early and the roads were still open so the start line had not yet been set up. We did look in the direction of where we would be running in the morning. Yup, it was definitely uphill. We headed back to our room, set out our gear and got an early night (no kids so we managed an 8pm bedtime) and waited for the alarm to go off the next day. I must say that I slept really well the night before the race which is quite unusual for me.

Where the start line would be in a few hours

Where the start line would be in a few hours

We would be running up that hill in about 12 hours time

We would be running up that hill soon

I set up my gear the night before and chose to run in my INKnBURN ‘Ganesha’ t-shirt. Ganesha is considered to be a remover of obstacles. Quite appropriate for one about to run a marathon.

'Flat Ian' and my 'Ganesha' INKnBURN shirt

‘Flat Ian’ and my ‘Ganesha’ INKnBURN shirt and ‘Current’ INKnBURN arm sleeves

The alarm went off bright and early. As we had to check out the hotel by 11am I decided to head down to the car around 5:45am with our packed bags while my wife waited for me in the lobby. We then headed down towards the starting line area and the bag check. At the last minute both my wife and I decided to take off the arm sleeves we had been wearing. That was a good idea as it was fairly mild at that time and did look to be warming up later.

Dressed up and ready to 'check out'!

Dressed up and ready to ‘check out’

Walking through Camden Yards (Orioles Park) was really cool. I had never been here before. It did look like we were walking through part of a film set at times. It seemed very different than I had expected for a ball park. We checked our bags and headed to the start line after a brief port-a-potty stop and time to stretch. We were not assigned corrals (there weren’t any) but there were signs set up based upon pace per mile. We slotted ourselves into a 10 minute per mile group and next to the 4:45 pace group. We figured that was pretty reasonable. Neither of us was planning to race this as we wanted to get to the finish line healthy and able to start our training for the Goofy Challenge the following week.

This seemed too easy...oh yes, we had to run a long way to get back here

This seemed too easy…oh right… we had to run a long way to get back here

Bags checked and ready to head to the start line

Bags checked and ready to head to the start line

Preview of the finish line we would be crossing in a few hours

Preview of the finish line we would be crossing in a few hours

Yup...this is us

Yup…this is us

Staying warm before the start. Those old mylar race blankets come in useful.

Staying warm before the start. Those old mylar race blankets come in useful

We listened to the introductions prior to the race and as we listened to the National Anthem we were taken by surprise when all the locals yelled “O” when the line “O say does that star-spangled banner yet wave” which apparently as an Orioles fan thing. We jumped a little but it was funny as we had no clue to expect it. With the National Anthem sung, the wheelchair racers were set off and then a few minutes later the horn declared the start of the marathon. We gave each other a good luck kiss (that is my wife and I…no-one else was involved) and headed towards the start line which was under an arch of red, white and blue balloons streaming with confetti and headed out.

Waiting for the signal to start

Waiting for the signal to start

Our view from the 10 minute/mile group

Our view from the 10 minute/mile group

Here we go

Here we go

The first stretch of the race was uphill (the first three miles) which I had expected as we ran up to Druid Hill Park and the Baltimore Zoo. I had at least read the first part of the course description. The first mile or two was a little crowded but not too much that we didn’t have enough space to move about. We ran through a couple of neighborhoods until we made the turn into Druid Hill Park. Well, the ‘Hill’ in the name was a clue. You can see from the elevation chart that those first 3 miles were all uphill.  We were using run/walk breaks of 4:15/0:45 coupled with the first 3 uphill miles and my wife commented that this stopped us going out too fast and the walk breaks definitely helped pace us up the hills.

Coming up on mile 3

Coming up on mile 3

We have arrived

We have arrived

Once we entered the park we made it into the Baltimore Zoo. They had some of the zoo keeping staff out with various animals, birds, etc. We ran past a raven (this was Baltimore obviously), an American kestrel, a cuckoo bird (I think) and we managed to get a picture with one of the penguins outside the new penguin exhibit. Pretty cool and my boys were impressed with that.

Nice tux

Nice tux

Once through the park we ran down towards the city and Johns Hopkins University and past the local hospitals. Around mile 5.5 we passed the Dunkin Donuts ‘Munchkin Mile’ where volunteers were holding out large boxes full of ‘Munchkins’. If you know me I’m very much a ‘by the book’ guy and if common sense says don’t try any new foods on race day I will stick with that rule….well, maybe for a munchkin I can make an exception.  I guess that was my dessert after having just taken a GU energy gel around mile 5.  We passed the first relay exchange point just after this (did the second relay runners get a munchkin?) and headed back towards the center of the city. The good part about having the relay exchanges along the course (separated into 4 members per relay team) was that there was always really good crowd support and energy along each part of the route.

Enjoying a little boost at the Munchkin Mile

Enjoying a little boost at the Munchkin Mile

We had to dodge a couple of cars which the local police had let through during a gap in the runners. Eventually we made a left and we headed downhill all the way to the Inner Harbor. This part of the course is a flat out and back around the harbor (I have yet to see water go uphill) so it gave us a bit of a break with no elevation. The out and back was from mile 8.5 to mile 13.5. We could see the relay exchange and the half marathon start line as we set out along the harbor and the crowd support was nice and loud as we ran along the course. As we passed the heavily trafficked part of the harbor the crowds thinned a little as we ran out further than along the course. We had run here with the boys in the double stroller a couple of years ago but we hadn’t gone this far down. I wasn’t sure where the turnaround was until we turned a corner and saw the ‘Under Armour’ headquarters which we ran through as the turn around point. That was cool. I was carrying a water bottle on my race belt so I stopped at the water station and refilled it to take with us and we headed back towards the crowds around the main part of the harbor.

As we circled around the harbor we approached the start line of the half marathon. The half marathon had started at 8:45am so the runners were gone by the time my wife and I arrived around 9:20am. We hit the 13.1 mile split at 2:17 on a pace for a 4:35 marathon (which included one port-a-potty stop). Not bad, averaging a 10:30 minute mile pace. The half marathon takes a slightly different course from the marathon for the first 3 miles or so and joins up with the full marathoners around mile 16. As a result the miles from 14 to 16 were probably the least crowded in terms of runners and crowd support for the whole course.

Remember that I mentioned the cobblestones earlier? Well, we revisited that area around mile 14 as we rounded the harbor. Although it was only a short amount of time on the cobblestones I almost went down. A bit scary. I was very glad to get over that stretch of the course. Then it was a gradual but long uphill from mile 15 to mile 19 at Clifton Park. At mile 16 we hit the half marathoners and it definitely got more crowded. We may have hit the rear of the half marathon as there were a lot of walkers in the groups we were passing. Granted, this was all uphill so not too many were running this part. We were running through neighborhoods at this stage of the race and many folks were sitting on their front steps out cheering for the runners. Crowd support was great for the course.

2014 Marathon Course map

2014 Marathon Course map

This was the elevation chart per my Garmin file

This was the elevation chart per my Garmin file

As we passed through Clifton Park there was a slight downhill to Lake Montebello. This again was another flat part of the course as we ran around the lake. As we entered the park I saw a sign which said 25 and having not memorized the route I told my wife that I thought once we had run around this lake we are almost home…duh…we were nowhere near the end. As we made it around the lake it was only two miles. I had read a date on a banner in the park…it said October 25 not mile 25.  Maybe I was hallucinating at this point. Interestingly as we hit mile 20 and the flat part of the course my wife began to struggle. Here hip and knee started to ache and we stopped at the med tent so she could grab some medicated cream to rub on her knee. She actually struggled from there onwards. When we ran the Philadelphia Marathon back in 2013 she had a similar issue but that had occurred very shortly after halfway so she had made it further this time before she ran into difficulty. We did a little bit of walking around the lake and slowed our pace quite a bit but we were determined to finish. As I said earlier, I am pretty regimented and I make sure to take my energy gels every 5-6 miles. My wife on the other hand is a go with the flow person. She takes an energy blok if she thinks she needs them and at that point she hadn’t taken many, I think less than 100 calories of fuel all the way to mile 20. I think in hindsight she under fueled herself during the race and this was her body beginning to get tired which may have caused her to be uncomfortable on the way back in.

Running around Lake Montebello

Running around Lake Montebello

I'm not sure if that's a smile or pain on Shari's face... I was scared to ask

I’m not sure if that’s a smile or pain on Shari’s face… I was scared to ask

Exiting the park at mile 21, not 25 😦 , we headed back (uphill) through various neighborhoods before hitting mile 23 and the long straight downhill to the finish. As we ran through these neighborhoods the crowds were out in force, encouraging the runners and providing them with treats such as gummy bears, other candy and beer, (or is that boh?). My wife took the gummy bears and we both avoided the beer. She was suffering a little going up the final hills and I got one of ‘those’ looks that told me not to ask how she was doing.

As we ended our run through the neighborhoods and headed back into the city proper we knew we were going to make it. It was a matter of ticking down the final 5K to the finish. As we got closer and closer we could feel the excitement that we were almost home. Soon enough we saw the stadiums as we approached and we ran into the entrance to Camden Yards. The finish line however wasn’t in the stadium so we may have gotten our hopes up too early, however we were not too far and finally the finish line was in sight. Holding our hands high above us we crossed the finish line together. Shari had finished her 3rd marathon and I had just finished my 10th marathon. We hit 4:45 which was pretty much what we had planned even though we had slowed over the last 6 miles.

4:45 exact per my watch (official time was 4:44:58)

4:45:00 exact per my watch (official time was 4:44:58)

We did it

We did it

That was the finish line we saw a few hours earlier in the dark

That was the finish line we saw a few hours earlier in the dark

We grabbed our medals and made it through the finish area to get some fuel. We sat down for a while to catch our breath and finally relax a little. Although Shari was struggling for the last few miles after sitting for a while and stretching she felt fine. It shows that she was just tired and not injured which is a good thing. We were both pretty tired but happy and very pleased that we had run another marathon together.

With our medals

With our medals

This was what we earned for our work

This was what we earned for our work

Shari celebrates finishing her 3rd marathon

Shari celebrates finishing her 3rd marathon

I'm celebrating finishing my 10th marathon (wow...I really said that!!!)

I’m celebrating finishing my 10th marathon (wow…I really said that!!!)

I would say Shari was feeling a little better post race

I would say Shari was feeling a little better post race

Looking at our results we noticed that Shari had improved her marathon PR by a minute from her last marathon in Philadelphia last year. She also said she had another PR in that she didn’t get mad at me until past mile 20 which is way longer than normal despite all my chatting and high fiving folks along the course. I call that a win!!!

So now what? We couldn’t get back to our hotel to shower so we went to ‘Plan B’. Shari still has membership with the LA Fitness gyms and that gives her access to any of their gyms in the US. She had a spare 2 day guest pass so we found a nearby LA Fitness and drove there, checked in and showered. Once we were all clean we decided to head over to Fells Point along the harbor rather than back to the Inner Harbor area. This was a great choice as it gave us many options to find a place to eat and also gave us a chance to walk around and stretch our legs before getting back in the car for the drive home.

All clean and looking for a place to refuel

All clean and looking for a place to refuel

We found a great place for lunch (the Green Turtle) and after lunch Shari walked around looking at each of the boutiques in the area. I didn’t mind too much as most of them had couches for me to sit down on. Ultimately we ended up at Kilwin’s for some ice cream as part of our post marathon refueling. We totally went to town as we had earned it. Try the cinnamon crumb cake ice cream if you ever go there.

They had fries. It was good.

They had fries. It was good.

Kilwin's for our post race treat

Kilwin’s for our post race treat

During lunch I noticed that the back of the medal said ‘It’s a hill…get over it!’. Ha ha, so true. Funny.

Ha ha!!

Ha ha!!

It started to get a little cold and windy so we called it a day around 6pm and headed home to pick up the boys. It was an easy drive home and we picked up our boys around 8:45pm. They were all dressed in their pajamas and waiting to go home. Nice.

This was a great choice to run. It was a great course (though hilly) and took us all over the city. I would highly recommend this. We were lucky to have perfect weather, the trip to and from Baltimore was easy and other than the issue with the hotel it was a perfect trip. In summary this was a great course, great support, great race organization, great shirts and a great medal. I’m glad we chose this and this being my 10th marathon I will remember this one for a long time.

Yes...we are THAT couple

Yes…we are THAT couple

I know this was a really long post but thanks for hanging in there.

Bucks County Duathlon – race recap

Bucks County Duathlon

Bucks County Duathlon

This weekend I participated in the 5th annual Bucks County Duathlon. This is a combined 2 mile run, 10 mile ride and 2 mile run which starts and finishes at Washington Crossing Park on the Pennsylvania side of the Delaware River alongside the Delaware Canal (the same location of my recent marathon).

I had participated in this event in 2011 (on a borrowed bicycle) and in 2012 (on my own bicycle) and had to miss it in 2013 for a family wedding. It’s a small event, less than 200 people, but some of these folks are serious triathletes and their clubs were represented by team tents at the staging area. It is used as a fundraiser to support Missy Flynn, a local triathlete who suffered a brain aneurysm back in 2010 and needs help and support for ongoing medical costs.

Race packet pickup was held at the Newtown Bike Store in the week leading up to the event. Race swag was a technical t-shirt with a silhouette of the famous ‘Washington Crossing the Delaware’ painting.

I set up my gear the night before and planned to wear my INKnBURN ‘Rock and Roll’ shirt with my tri-shorts. Ever so stylish, although the British theme for a race at Washington Crossing Park may have seemed like an odd choice 😉

'Flat Ian' the night before

‘Flat Ian’ the night before

The race started at 8am on Sunday morning but you needed to leave enough time to set up your bicycle and related gear in the transition area. I arrived with enough time to check my tires, pick a spot near the end of a row and set out my cycling shoes (my bicycle uses clip pedals), helmet, gloves, etc. I also brought out my old Garmin 305 multisport watch. Having run with the Garmin Forerunner 220 since earlier this year it seemed huge but does what I needed. I only switched to the 220 because the 305 took forever to locate my position. I had plenty of time for the GPS to find me on race day.

It's big but it does the trick

It’s big but it does the trick

I set up my gear and waited for the start of the race.

My wheels

My wheels

Ready to go

All set up

The race consisted of a 2 mile loop starting in the park, out along the canal and back to the transition area. There was a timing mat at the entrance and exit of the transition area where you had to walk (run) your bike out and back in. The ride consisted of an out and back 2.5 mile ride which we did twice for a total of 10 miles before the returning our bicycles and running the second loop which was the same as the first.

Ready to start

Ready to start

Start and finish was in the same location

Start and finish was in the same location

photo 4

Transition area

Trnasition area

Transition area

The race director gave pre-race instructions around 7:45am and we all lined up according to our waves. It was elites first then age groups male and female every minute after. One of the athletes played the National Anthem on their trumpet and then the horn sounded and the waves all went off as directed.

I ran the first loop pretty steadily. As each running leg was short I decided to not use my usual run/walk/run method and just go for it. I didn’t go all out as I knew I still had a ride and a second run to do but I did push a little harder than my regular pace. This paid off with a first leg of the duathlon running splits less than 8 minutes/mile.

photo 2

First leg of the race – 2 mile run

First leg of the race - 2 mile run

First leg of the race – 2 mile run

Even though I was passed by many runners soon after the start, along the course of the 2 miles I managed to keep a steady pace and reel a few of the runners back and pass then in the last half mile or so. Based upon the results I was placed 68/141 for the first run.

From there it was on to the transition area. This seemed to go fine although I did struggle to put on one of my running gloves in the humidity and rush of the morning. Then I ran my bicycle out of the transition area to where we were allowed to mount the bicycle and headed off on the road for the ride leg of the event.

Leaving the transition area

Leaving the transition area

This is where I was separated from the real triathletes in the race. I own a hybrid bicycle (Trek FX 7.2) not a road or tri bicycle that it seemed the majority of folks out there were riding. Now as fast as my legs could pedal I was being passed constantly on the second half of the ride. Those with the right gear (lightweight/aerodynamic) just flew past me on the road.

Being followed by a local police cruiser...not for speeding obviously!!!

Being followed by a local police cruiser…not for speeding obviously!!!

I averaged about 16 miles per hour on the road (it was fairly flat) but the speedier folks were pushing well beyond 20 miles per hour and it showed as I saw all the folks I had run past were now ahead of me. I was placed 114/141 for the bicycle portion. Ouch!!!

Second leg of the race - 10 mile ride

Second leg of the race – 10 mile ride

Second leg of the race - 10 mile ride

Second leg of the race – 10 mile ride

Then back to the transition area. This is the point in the race that I always joke that the difference between the first and last runs are you start out like Forrest Gump and come back like Lieutenant Dan. I started to run on the third and final part of the race and my legs were like jelly. I could just about feel my feet and it just felt weird for at least the first half mile. I just made constant motion and moved forward as best I could.

I was a little slower for the third part of the race, but then so was everyone else. Like before I didn’t use the run/walk/run method and just went for it as best I could. Not flat-out as my legs probably would not have taken that effort, but just fast enough to maintain a sub 8 minute mile. I noticeably passed more people on this second run and this showed as I finished this final leg 44/141, better than the first run even though the time was 2 seconds slower. I pushed hard for this last leg.

Final leg of the race - 2 mile run

Final leg of the race – 2 mile run

Final leg of the race - 2 mile run

Final leg of the race – 2 mile run

Overall I came in with a combined time (including the two transitions) of 1:11:37, a PR of 5:01 over my 2012 efforts placing 84/141. Next to all those serious tri-guys I was happy with this result. 🙂

Final Results

Final Results

Boom!!! A new PR

Boom!!! A new PR

In the post race area there were places to check your final times as well as post race refreshments (bagels with cream cheese, bananas and peanut butter & jelly sandwiches). I took to a picnic table to cool down and stretch and enjoy my bagel as I watched the other competitors run in. It was a beautiful but warm morning. I worked pretty hard on the day but was very happy with the result.

With all the runners in I decided to grab my gear and head home (my wife had an 18 mile run planned and it was getting warmer and later in the day). The volunteers in the transition area made sure that everyone’s bib number matched the bicycle tag number (for security reasons) and I headed home. This was the end of my bicycle riding for the season and so I put my Trek back into storage with my bike rack. Now back to focusing on my upcoming running events. Perhaps next year is the year I turn the ‘Duathlon’ into a ‘Triathlon’…

A good day for a PR as I headed home.

A good day for a PR as I headed home.

Thanks for reading.

Upcoming races:

September 21 – Rock and Rock Philadelphia Half Marathon

October 18 – Baltimore Marathon

November – Thanksgiving race in Florida – TBD (anything from a 5K to a Half Marathon)

January 10-11 – Walt Disney World Goofy Challenge

If you are interested in any of the INKnBURN gear, please feel free to use my Ambassador code (INBians14) on their site for a 15% discount on any of their merchandise. Take a look at their site and hope you find something you might like to try.

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.

mm

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.