In late March my wife and I traveled to California to take part in this year’s Los Angeles Marathon. I’ll say it now…it was a great experience and I highly recommend it.
In looking for a spring marathon together we had originally set our sights on running Rock ‘n’ Roll New Orleans. We had some logistical issues (no babysitter for a long weekend) so we searched around a little more. I still had some airline miles from my previous job that were going unused, so we threw caution to the wind and figured that we’d go big or go home. LA was the chosen destination and it proved to be a great choice.
So, if you know anything about us we don’t just go to run. We sightsee. A lot. My wife is an event planner by profession and as soon as the registration for the race had been processed then the planning spreadsheet was created. I should note that this blog may turn out to be more a whirlwind tour of Los Angeles with a little run thrown in the middle versus a race recap LOL. What do they say about keeping off your feet before a marathon? We seem to ignore that and go by the rule ‘No sleep until Philly’ whenever we go on a road trip. As this was going to be a special trip for us I invested in a refurbished GoPro for the trip. Lot’s of experimenting including running in my local park to see how I could manage this on race day. I think the local wildlife must think I’m really weird.
Training for a spring marathon means training through East Coast winters. Although this was not a terrible winter (save for a really cold snap) we didn’t have too much snow compared to prior years but it was just the cold that was bone chilling. Hence, most of the training took part indoors on the treadmill. Knowing that we would be running soon in sunshine with palm trees framing our streets this was motivation for pushing through those endless hours running and not getting anywhere. I think I made it outside for long runs about 50% of the time but I did log at least one 20 miler inside on the treadmill. Plus side is that I got to catch up on a lot of Netflix shows.
We headed to LA on the Thursday before the race. We had an early morning flight but with the time change we arrived early afternoon. We stayed in Culver City which was fairly close to the airport so the drive was short. We picked Culver City as the race finished in Santa Monica about 10 minutes away and being a point to point race the buses left from there to the start on race morning. It was close enough and just being a few minutes away from Santa Monica itself was cost effective. We dropped our bags and headed straight to Santa Monica and some warm sunshine. We scoped out the area a bit and rented bikes to travel along the beach towns towards our destination for the evening in Abbot Kinney.
Friday was race expo day and we got up early to head to downtown LA to pick up all race bibs and gear for the weekend. We got up early because we had heard many times over that driving in LA was really bad. That’s all everyone seems to go on about when talking about LA. However, I must have been lucky the whole visit as we never seemed to have any traffic issues the time we were there and we drove around a lot….again, the event planner with us.
The expo was at the Convention Center just behind the Staples Center and we had fun walking around before we actually got into the expo. Once inside everything was clearly marked and identifiable. As we walked in we bumped into Rudy Novotny the race announcer. I know Rudy from meeting him at runDisney events in the past. He gave a shout out to ‘Team Shenanigans’. Good times.
The marathon sponsor this year was Skechers and the merchandise area was full of cool looking and very reasonably priced gear, definitely not New York City Marathon pricing for sure. I ended up buying a fun shirt representing the course and my wife bought a fun hat. She had more luck at the Lululemon pop up store outside of the official merchandise area. Doesn’t she always seem to have ‘luck’ at Lululemon??? The expo was not huge for a race this size and we went through fairly quickly. A lot of sponsors for local races which wasn’t going to be of much interest to us visiting for the long weekend. I did bump into my friend Michael who was using this marathon as a stop on his way to his 50 States goal. I also took the opportunity to treat myself to the Normatec vendor’s offer of a free leg treatment. Very relaxing.
After the expo we took a trip up to the Griffith Park Observatory for the afternoon after a stop at the steps famously used by Laurel and Hardy in the short film ‘The Music Box’. I had seen this movie many times over the years and had planned to make this a stop on our trip as I noted it was near the Convention Center. That’s a lot of stairs before a marathon. Mind you, the hike up to the Griffith Observatory isn’t less of a work out either. The views at the top were worth it. From there we took a drive to Beverly Hills and Rodeo Drive. We would be running through these streets on Sunday so we took the time today to enjoy them at a more relaxed pace before grabbing dinner and a reasonably early night. We had accomplished a lot and we still had a day to go before the marathon.
Saturday morning was the day before the marathon…surely we would stay off our feet today? Nope. We came all this way for this race so we had to pack in as much as we could. We started the day with a ‘hike’ to the top of Runyon Canyon. The views of the Hollywood Hills were spectacular but the sign warning of us to be on the look out for rattle snakes was just a tad disconcerting. Following an insanely crazy breakfast at ‘The Griddle Café’ in Hollywood we spent the afternoon exploring up and down Hollywood Boulevard. Again, we would be running this the next day but I was on the hunt to find some of my favorite stars on the Hollywood ‘Walk of Fame’ as well as the hands and feet in cement at the ‘Chinese Theater’. We also took a tour of the Warner Brothers Studio where my wife and I reenacted scenes from some of our favorite shows on the actual sets…and were given ‘that look’ from the tour guide. Hey, we were having fun. After a nice pre-race pasta dinner at a fancier than I was expecting restaurant (I was fully prepared to be turned away based upon what I was wearing) we headed home for our early (and I mean early) wake up for our 4:30am bus from Santa Monica the next day.
Waking up at near Disney race times is not always fun but we had a great tour of Los Angeles and it’s surrounding neighborhoods planned for the day. I had pre-reserved parking in one of the lots closest to the finish line and we headed out around 4am for the short drive to the buses. The drive was short but the lines to get into the parking was longer than we expected. Nevertheless we were soon parked and on route to the buses. It was quick and easy and the drive from Santa Monica to the starting area at LA’s Dodgers stadium took about 20-25 minutes.
We got there with plenty of time to spare. It was dark so we just followed everyone else into the stadium where all the bathrooms were open on the concourse. These were much better than waiting outside for port-a-potties. Plus we got to sit in the stadium and relax for a while before having to head out to the corrals.
Go time for the race was 7am and so we headed out to the corrals while it was still dark. We missed where to enter into the starting chute and ended up with a whole crowd of people at the barrier at the side of our predicted race pace. It was a bit of a mess trying to get in. People were shoving here and there. We had asked a couple of volunteers early where we needed to be and they didn’t have much of an idea. Anyway we made it into the corrals (with the mob) and set about heading to the starting line and out of Dodgers Stadium. The race announcers mentioned the number of runners participating in the ‘Students Run LA’ program who were running in the marathon today. About 3,000 students would be running their first marathon on the day. They were clearly identifiable in their bright yellow shirts. More on this later.
The LA Marathon is advertised as the ‘From the stadium to the sea’. The course starts in Pasadena at Dodgers Stadium and the course takes you through the streets of Los Angeles and its surrounding neighborhoods to finish along the Pacific Coast at Santa Monica Pier. It is a grand tour with some fantastic sites. The following list of mile markers is from the official LA Marathon website.
Mile 1 – Dodger Stadium
Mile 2 – Cesar Chavez Blvd
Mile 3 – Downtown LA
Mile 4 – Disney Concert Hall
Mile 5 – Downtown LA
Mile 6 – Echo Park
Mile 7 – Silverlake
Mile 8 – Los Feliz
Mile 9 – Thai Town
Mile 10 – Hollywood Walk of Fame
Mile 11 – Grauman’s Chinese Theater
Mile 12 – Hollywood
Mile 13 – Sunset Strip
Mile 14 – West Hollywood
Mile 15 – West Hollywood
Mile 16 – Doheny Drive
Mile 17 – Rodeo Drive
Mile 18 – Santa Monica Blvd
Mile 19 – Westwood
Mile 20 – Westwood/Sepulveda Blvd
Mile 21 – VA/Wilshire Blvd
Mile 22 – San Vicente & Bundy
Mile 23 – San Vicente & 26th
Mile 24 – San Vicente & 14th
Mile 25 – Ocean Ave/Palisades Park
Mile 26 – Santa Monica
As you can imagine, we were excited by the prospect of some fantastic opportunities to see this city on foot and we weren’t to be disappointed. Conditions on the day were amazing. Clear blue skies and streets lined with palm trees. Just like the brochure 😉
I’m not going to go into detailed description of the course but I will share some of the highlights of the day. At the end of this post I will attach a link to my video (from the GoPro) of our day out on the marathon course. As for the course, in summary, it was great. Lots of eye candy. Plenty of photo opportunities and more hills than I imagined (hey…’Hollywood Hills’, ‘Beverly Hills’…how did I not see that coming). I wouldn’t say this was a course if you are looking for a fast time unless you were going to be near the front. This was the Olympic Trials course for 2016 so it could be considered fast but it was quiet congested mid-pack as there were a lot (or so it seemed) of first time marathoners out there. Going back to what I was saying about the 3,000 Students Run LA participants, you have at least that many first timers and it just made it that much more congested. Don’t get me wrong, these kids were amazing. Running a marathon at that age is such a great achievement but there were many ‘packs’ of runners along the course.
We did have a great time and there were many highlights. Around mile 7 we had our first personal cheer leader of the day. I had met Phillip through my connection with Autism Speaks many years ago. He has since moved on to work with the Arthritis Foundation but as an LA local he came out to support us and even made a sign for us. That was a great boost early in the race. Around mile 20 when things start to get rough during a marathon a cousin, Paul, who loves out in the LA area came out to support us. He was there to cheer on his fellow gym team (Paul competes in stair climbing challenges). He ran along side us for a little while and gave us another much-needed boost. We would get back together with him for brunch the next day. Finally, as we entered Brentwood in the last few miles of the race, Kristen who is another LA local and a member of Team Shenanigans had a cheering section out on the course. So much fun to meet her and to see that she had chalked our name on the ground in anticipation of our arrival. That was awesome to come all this way and have people we knew come out to cheer for us really made the day.
There was so much to see out on this course and the crowd support and the neighborhood support was amazing. There weren’t many quiet stretches along the course. It was crowded but it never really felt quiet. So many people out there. It helps when there is great weather to begin with.
Towards the end of the race it was heating up. The sun was shining and there was not much shade. Neither of us struggled with this but judging from our time we were not pushing it. Not our slowest time as we still seem to take more time out on the course during the Walt Disney World Marathon but an equal number of unique photo stops for sure.
As we headed up Santa Monica Boulevard towards the pier at the end of the race I can truly say that we enjoyed our time out on the course. It was not a matter of wishing the finish line were closer. It was great out there. A wonderful medal and a memorable experience.
It was however a longer than anticipated walk back to the parking lot where we had arrived several hours earlier. We stopped at a Starbucks on our way to the car for a quick refreshment and some much-needed air conditioning before returning to our hotel for a quick shower and more sightseeing. We spent the afternoon driving up the Pacific Coast Highway to Malibu where we had a celebratory dinner by the beach. Cannot beat that for a post marathon celebration.
The next day we had a late night flight so we had a relaxing morning. My wife had thought ahead and booked us massages for after the race. I usually like a deep tissue massage but I was discouraged of this notion by the masseuse for the day after a marathon. She was probably right. We then met up again with cousin Paul and his wife Evelyn for a nice long brunch before taking our sweet time of driving back to spend the rest of the day walking along the beach in Santa Monica before heading off to the airport for the red eye back to Philadelphia…where we could finally get that sleep we needed.
Here is the link to the video I made of the race. It was my first attempt at making a recap video so you may have to cut me some slack. Hope you enjoy it.
Hey…remember that big race weekend back in January that I was going on about for months and months. Well it happened… This is me trying to catch up and recap the weekend. Apologies for being AWOL for a few months (I haven’t posted anything since my November recap). Life is great, work is busy, my kids are awesome and involved in so many extra curricular activities that I just haven’t found the time to sit and get to the blog for a while. My other impetus for catching up is that I have another marathon in just under 3 weeks and I’d better recap the last one before I think about the next one.
So here goes…
Our weekend started earlier than anticipated. We were closely monitoring the weather forecasts here in the northeast. Snow was predicted late Wednesday night into Thursday morning. We were due out early on Thursday and were a little anxious. A work colleague suggested I call our airline and see if we could change our flights due to the weather. Luckily we were able to do so and move our hotel reservation from Philadelphia International Airport to Orlando International Airport. We made it to the hotel around midnight but we at least got there. Phew.
The plus side was that we were able to get a free shuttle to and from the airport hotel and were able to catch our Magical Express to our resort (Port Orleans – French Quarter) around 9am on the Thursday when we didn’t really plan on arriving until early afternoon. We got an extra half day of time in the Magic Kingdom and we decided to make the most of it.
As none of our FastPasses were available until around 3pm we looked around for some rides where the lines were reasonable. I think we caught the last week of winter break from some of the southern schools. The park was heaving. We were able to get on a couple of rides (Buzz Lightyear Space Ranger Spin and Carousel of Progress) when I suggested the Tomorrowland Transit Authority (People Mover). I like this ride. My wife does not. This did not improve when the ride broke down in Space Mountain…in the dark. She was not amused. We were eventually evacuated off the ride by some Cast Members and as we excited they gave us a free FastPass for any ride in the park that day. Now she was happy.
On the TTA…
…off the TTA
As we excited the ride we tried to catch the Festival of Fantasy Parade which was washed out by rain the last time we were here. This would be our first time seeing it. As we arrived at a viewing spot, the family in front of us got up to leave and offered us their place. Front row right at the hub. So far the bonus day was working out. We even skipped a 75 minute wait for the Haunted Mansion with our extra FastPasses. Awesome. We even got to ride Splash Mountain…some of us twice. It is never open when we visit during marathon weekend so this was a first time for all of us. For real!!! In all my years coming here back to 1981 I don’t think I have ever been on that ride. A new family favorite for sure.
Awesome bonus FastPass
We just saw the cost of our vacation!!!
It was a cold day in the Park. I haven’t been down here in weather this cold. We were all wearing hats, gloves and coats. Weird to be so dressed up for a day at Walt Disney World. After a nice fun dinner at Skippers Canteen and a ride on the ‘Jingle’ not ‘Jungle’ Cruise (another first time experience), a ride on the Seven Dwarfs Mine Train and a view of the new firework show, we headed back to our resort for a relatively early night. It had been a long day but a bonus one at that. Tomorrow was Expo Day and the boys were going to run the Mickey Mile.
A cold but fun day at the Magic Kingdom
As we were staying a host resort we were able to utilize the race transportation. Buses ran fairly regularly to the ESPN Wide World of Sports for the expo. As our resort was the first stop for all the buses we were fortunate that we never had to worry about there being enough seats on the bus and waiting for the next bus to come along. A huge advantage of staying at French Quarter (there was only one bus stop for this resort). We arrived at the expo and went over to the Field House to pick up our bibs and race shirts as well as the boys race bibs. This was our first return to a runDisney race since 2015 and we were surprised to see how things had changed. All the runDisney merchandise was in the same building on the lower floor so we spent some time (and money) there before heading over to the fields for the start of the kids mile races. I’m really proud of my kids. They both did a solid job running the mile and their times were pretty decent too. It was a far cry from their first runDisney races back in 2012.
Arriving at Wide World of Sports for the expo
At the Field House for the bib pickup
The boys are all set for the races
Heading to the start line
They did it!!!
This was 6 years earlier at our first runDisney weekend
After the kids races we headed into the general expo. We were in and out of there relatively quickly as we didn’t see much of anything we really needed and wanted to spend our time with the boys in the park (as they had been incredibly patient so far…we didn’t want to lose that!!!)
As there were no direct buses to EPCOT (our park of choice for the day) we decided to take a bus over to the Beach Club and walk to the International Gateway entrance in World Showcase. It was a nice cool afternoon and we had a great time wandering around the park. We stopped for an early dinner at Via Napoli (another family first this trip) for a night of carb loading and later got a prime spot for the Illuminations fireworks before heading back for a relatively early night.
My wife and I were keenly watching the weather forecast for the morning. Although we had escaped the snow back up in the northeast we hadn’t entirely escaped the cold temperatures. It was time for the original running gear to be jettisoned in place of the warm running gear that we threw in to our suitcases as we got closer to race weekend.
We were up bright and early (too early if you ask my wife…always) and got our running gear/costumes on for our first event of this weekend, the Half Marathon. It was a pretty short bus ride to the start line and we were there early enough to grab a character photo with Minnie Mouse before meeting up for a photo opportunity with our friends from Team Shenanigans.
With Minnie and previewing our Star Wars costumes for the Half Marathon
Team Shenanigans at the Half Marathon
I knew from what I had been reading that they were using a new wave corral system for the race start and the announcers seemed to really emphasize getting to the corrals early to try to be up front. From what I had read the corrals now had multiple waves within them. We made our way over early and found a good place to sit down and wrap up ourselves in space blankets and towels to keep warm. It was quite a wait as we were there so early but luckily we were up front and once the race started we didn’t have to wait around too long.
Trying to stay warm during our wait in the corral
Soon enough we were off and making our way down the familiar route towards the Magic Kingdom. Although it had been 3 years since we last ran here we pretty much were familiar with the route. After all, this was our 4th runDisney Half Marathon. We made our usual stops on the way to the Magic Kingdom (noticing that they were missing the Black Pearl pirate ship photo stop) and headed up towards the park. One big (huge, enormous and massively welcome) change was that when we approached the Magic Kingdom this year, instead of running to the right of the entrance and entering Main Street from off stage, we ran right in through the park entrance. I LOVED IT!!!!!
Our usual stop on the way to the parking lots to the Magic Kingdom
Our first character stop on the course – Wreck-It Ralph and Venellope
At the entrance to the park
At the entrance to the park with the dedication plaque
Finally in the park. Back where we belong.
Truly the best part about these races. Running up Main Street towards the castle.
Some fun stops along the way – The Queen of Hearts and the White Rabbit
Some fun stops along the way – The Great Goofini
Some fun stops along the way – Sebastian
Some fun stops along he way – Suzy and Pearla
Running through Fantasy Land
Our Castle shot – these aren’t the droids you’re looking for
On our way back to EPCOT with another ‘Power Couple’
Arriving in Future World
Heading to the finish line
We did it! The Half Marathon and first part of the Goofy Race and a Half Challenge is done.
It was still quite cold by the time we finished the race and we were on the clock for the baby sitter so we didn’t hang around long at the finish line. Instead we headed back to the resort, grabbed some breakfast on the way to our room and arrived just as our youngest was waking up. Our eldest was still fast asleep. That was the easiest money the baby sitter we hired had ever earned…unless you count the part where she had to be at our room by 3am.
We quickly got showered and dressed and made our way over to Hollywood Studios. We were all pumped to get on with our day and see all the Star Wars stuff and meet the Guardians of the Galaxy….well, the boys were. My wife kind of fell asleep while waiting for the bus!!!
Zzzzzz…. She will hate me for this picture being on the blog
When we arrived in the park we had some photos taken by one of the PhotoPass photographers. He was impressed by all of our medals and made us do these poses with them.
My boys were in their element. All the Star Wars activities, shows and parades. They loved it. Me too.
The highlight of the day for my boys was meeting Baby Groot from the Guardians of the Galaxy.
We are Groot
After a fun afternoon we stayed to watch the Star Wars fireworks. Not before I took part of my routine night before a marathon ritual….a cookie (and a great one) as well as my boys who were still telling me they ran the mile.
Yeah, yeah….the mile
Then it was back to the resort to try and get some sleep before the big day. Marathon Sunday.
It was up early again…for the babysitter as she met us at our hotel room for a second day at 3am. We told here our expected ETA based upon the last time we ran the Walt Disney World Marathon together. We are both much faster runners but at Disney we take our time and soak up the fun. Based upon past times we told her we would be back for 11am. We then headed down to the lobby for the bus to the race.
I’ll drop you a little clue here as to our costume theme for this race.
It’s not easy being green
Unlike yesterday’s ride which seemed to be smooth and fairly speedy, we stopped at every bus stop along the route. Early on the seats were all filled and the driver just seemed to be stopping to tell people to take the next bus. Once we were out of the resort we hit traffic. We later found out that a car had broken down and was blocking a lane. Once we arrived we didn’t have much time to wait around. We were too late for another team meet up. We swooped quickly by the remaining Team Shenanigans runners who were waiting to go to later corrals. I stopped to say hello and wish our friend Sandy good luck on her first marathon and then headed straight for the corrals.
Like yesterday we were able to get up front in our corral but it was still fairly cold to start and we were again glad for our towels and space blankets while we sat waiting for the race to get started. It wasn’t too long before we were up and out of our corrals and heading into what was my wife’s 10th marathon and my 20th marathon. Finally, after all this time and training we were on our way.
A fun billboard just past the starting line
As was the case yesterday, we followed the same route as before but this time they had changed up all the characters. Gone were the days of us saying “We will get that tomorrow” on the Saturday or “We’ve already stopped before” on the Sunday. A nice touch. This was after all the 25th Anniversary Marathon so there must have been some extra planning involved in setting up this years event.
We have our Rainbow Connection
Launchpad and Scrooge McDuck
The Evil Queen from Snow White
We headed up to the Magic Kingdom and through the front entrance again (runDisney…please keep this as part of the race in future) and from there we spent what seemed like forever enjoying the park. Our mile splits up to this point were something akin to 10 minute miles until we hit the park and then we started having close to 20 minute miles for our time in the park. Totally worth it!!
Main Street. My happiest place in the Happiest Place
With the Tweedles and the White Rabbit
With Lady Tremaine, Anastasia and Drizella
The nice Castle photo
A pretty darned impressive Castle photo
Once we were through the Magic Kingdom came the long road towards Animal Kingdom up through cone alley and what seemed liked one of the longest out and backs that I can remember. It was definitely warming up which was good. It wasn’t hot by any means but comfortable running weather.
Carl, Russell and Doug from ‘Up’
With Clarabelle as we approached the Animal Kingdom
Once we hit Animal Kingdom we knew we were almost half way. We had made it past the water treatment facility too which was a major plus! We were now close to 3 hours for our first half. Oops. How much was that babysitter again? Oh well, we were having a boatload of fun.
The parking lot out of the Animal Kingdom is long and winding. That is always a tough little section as it appears to go on forever but we set off for our next location which would be around mile 17, the Wide World of Sports. On the way we soon came across our friend Laura, the ‘Chicken Hat Cheerer’. As always out there on the course being everyone’s best cheering squad and bringing plenty of supplies to share. Usually Laura is stationed between mile 20-21 but I believe she may have had a little run in with course security which led her to being stationed around mile 15. Not that we minded in the slightest.
A much needed lift at this point in the race
Our obligatory Haunted Mansion photo
There is so much construction around Walt Disney World right now but Disney managed to make the best of it. Archeologist Pluto was out there digging up dinosaur bones.
Usually the Wide World of Sports is one of the hardest parts of the race. It’s essentially a long twisty out and back. Yes, you do hit the track (for less than a full lap) and you get to run around the stadium, but there is not much else to look at usually. This year runDisney really pulled out the stops and made this less of a drag as they had plenty of character opportunities dotted around the grounds.
With our friend Goofy at the track
Minnie was waiting for us at the soccer fields
Mickey and Donald were waiting for us at the baseball stadium
In the outfield and rounding for home
After the Wide World of Sports its up and over the ramp towards Hollywood Studios. With so much construction we were ‘blink and you miss it’ time in the park. As we entered they were giving out the candy (always a favorite part of the race). I took a bag of Malteasers to stick with my British roots. One huge surprise backstage was the chance to meet up with Oswald. I thought he only appeared on the West Coast at Disneyland. This is one of my eldest’s favorite characters so we had to stop for a photo with him.
Feeling ‘Lucky’ with Oswald
And before you knew it we were through Hollywood Studios and out onto the walkway to the Boardwalk and to the entrance to World Showcase.
We had just over a mile to go. It was now a journey around the world to reach Future World. As we entered I sent a quick text message to members of Team Shenanigans who were waiting inside the Mexico Pavilion. A few weeks earlier I had sent over my PayPal payment the moment someone had the brilliant idea of setting up a margarita stop in Mexico at the end of mile 25 and just before entering Future World. I have some great team mates.
Cheers from Mexico
Running through World Showcase
We made it to Future World
We had to stop to say hello to the choir at Mile 26
We did it!!! Marathon number 10 and number 20!!!!!
We did it. Just under 6 hours. 5:57 to be precise. Slowest but probably most fun marathon to date.
What a beautiful and fun day
Yeah We Did!!
Another marathon (my 5th Disney and my wife’s 3rd Disney marathon) and another Goofy Challenge (my 4th and my wife’s 2nd). Lots of miles and lots of memories.
Not much chance to sit around for recovery. We had a very expensive baby sitter on the clock.
As a special surprise at the finish line, and to celebrate the 25th Anniversary of the Walt Disney World Marathon, each finisher was awarded a special pair of Mickey Ears.
Magical Mickey Ears
Heading out to celebrate the marathon
After a quick shower we headed out to celebrate the rest of the day at the Animal Kingdom where we got to experience the land of Pandora together. Lots of fun (and desserts) that evening. Upon returning back to our resort I stopped by the front desk to ask a few questions and pick up these special celebration buttons for us all.
This was the longest trip to Walt Disney World we had taken with the boys. We stayed an extra couple of days after the race and made the most use of our park time. We spent our post race day in EPCOT and finished as always with our last day in the Magic Kingdom.
While we were in EPCOT I headed to Mouse Gears to get our new marathon ears embroidered to remember this weekend.
On our last day we did something that we have never really had the opportunity to do before when the boys were much younger. We arrived before the park opened and got in early. We stayed from park open to park close. We rode the most rides in one day we had ever ridden and finished our goal of riding all the mountains at Walt Disney World (Splash, Thunder, Space and Everest). No one skipped any rides except for Tower of Terror…but my eldest rode that twice in a row!
We were early enough to get some great family photos in front of the castle before the crowds came for the day. We also finally got our boys to do a fairly decent jump shot. A truly memorable race weekend and family vacation.
We left with many happy memories. This was a great marathon weekend for all of us.
Thank you for reading and staying in touch with the blog. Apologies again that this is so late.
Life has been a little busy, all good though. I’m only just getting around to catching up so this will be a quick recap of both January and February together.
Here is my Garmin and Nike data for January.
Garmin Connect – January 2017
Over 201 miles this month – 178 miles running with a couple of days cross training (Swimming – 1.66 miles and Biking – 21.85 miles). Notice January 7th with the snow shoveling activity that got added!!!!
Nike just records my running total. This is the result of training for a marathon during the winter.
Nike + Summary – January 2017
I was happy to wake up early on January 1st and knock out a 15 mile run while the streets were quiet. Best running day of the year (provided you are dressed for the weather). We have had a fairly warm winter although I did have to take a few long runs on the treadmill due to juggling some parent handling duties and extra early morning runs. Still, I was able to keep myself occupied with numerous episodes of Star Trek – The Next Generation.
My wife and I were still able to get outdoors together thanks to the mild weather. This made winter marathon training much more fun – especially when we were able to get our long runs in together while the boys were in school on Sunday mornings.
Here we are running along the Delaware Canal Towpath
Crossing the Delaware River at Washington Crossing. A little colder but still a great morning.
Here are my Garmin stats for February.
Garmin Connect – February 2017
You will notice another day of snow shoveling on February 9th. To have only 2 days of major shoveling in two months is great and welcome relief for my lower back! No swimming this month but total miles of 166 miles for the month made up of almost 141 miles of running and 25.5 miles of riding (indoors). As you can see we knocked out the last of our long runs mid month and very happily enjoyed the start to our taper.
Nike + Summary – February 2017
February weather was incredible. I got to run my last 20 mile run outdoors in t-shirt and shorts….in February!!!!!!
Incredible weather for mid-February. So lucky.
For Valentine’s Day this year my wife decided to sign me up for a couple’s class at the Orange Theory Fitness gym she attends regularly. Boy, was I not prepared for that. I did hold my own but I’m not used to doing squats holding medicine balls or doing multiple rounds of burpees (they are not a nice thing!). I was very happy to have survived and enjoyed our sushi dinner at the restaurant next door post workout. With an extra helping of green tea ice cream.
My one, and to date only, Orange Theory Fitness class report
I had to skip my running for a couple of days after this as my quads were beaten up from the squats and burpees but I guess it was good for me.
February also brought about registration for the 2018 Walt Disney World Marathon weekend. Usually registration opens up in April but it seems to be getting earlier and earlier. My wife and I haven’t done a runDisney race since we did the Goofy Challenge back in 2015. This was the 25th Anniversary Walt Disney World Marathon and that it would be a special race (we had run the 20th Anniversary race back in 2013, my wife’s first marathon). We would also be timing this to be my wife’s ’10th’ marathon and my ’20th’ marathon. Big goals. To add into the mix we decided to register for the Goofy Challenge again. This is really such a fun race and this will be her 2nd Goofy and my 4th (if you include the Goofy distance that I ran as part of the 2014 Dopey Challenge). Our boys are signed up for the ‘Mickey Mile’ too that weekend. Lots to look forward to in 2018.
It should be a very special race again
Ready for a redo of our Goofy fun. Costume ideas are being planned.
Looking forward to another Goofy Challenge together
But firstly in March we have the upcoming Rock ‘n’ Roll D.C. Marathon and then I will be back in triathlon training mode. It will be a busy year.
October was a fun but busy month. It involved a number of days of business travel for both my wife and myself but also a marathon and continued training.
October 2016 – Nike+ Summary
My total mileage for the month was 132 miles. All running, as you can also see from the Garmin summary below, there was no swimming or biking this month. There were a number of rest days this month as I tapered towards and rested after the Mohawk Hudson River Marathon that I ran in the early part of the month.
October 2016 – Garmin Connect Summary
After the marathon I was into my back to back plan. There are six weeks between running the Mohawk Hudson race and the running the Rocky Challenge at this years Philadelphia Marathon weekend. The challenge is to run the half marathon on the Saturday and the full marathon on the Sunday. Although I have done this three times already at Disney (Goofy Challenge 2013, Dopey Challenge 2014 and Goofy Challenge 2015) this still takes a lot of effort and is not to be taken lightly.
I am using Hal Higdon’s multiple marathon plan which I have used successfully in the past. It is a 6 week program divided into 2 weeks of recovery, 2 weeks of training and 2 weeks of taper. I have been making sure that the days before the long run are at least half the miles I will be running for my long run in order to simulate race weekend fatigue on my body.
With all that mileage I am lucky that I have something to absorb the calories from another Halloween. I enjoy this holiday as I get to dress up with my kids and go trick or treating. I never had this growing up in the UK so I really go all in here in the US, decorating the house and for the last few years coordinating costumes with the boys. This year however, my eldest decided he wanted a scary costume and I was not allowed to coordinate with him. I was free to choose what I wanted.
I chose to be Captain Kirk as it was just after the 50th anniversary of Star Trek. I revealed my costume the week before Halloween to my kids, only for my wife to tell my youngest that Daddy was a ‘Wiggle’! What???? Thanks Honey 😦
Ready to Boldly Go
This was not the look I was going for
Either way, I had the last laugh when it came to Halloween. I dressed up and went out with the boys. I wasn’t collecting candy (although I did hold the bag for my youngest…and saw to it that he wasn’t overstocked with Kit Kat’s) but I reached house who insisted I look at their license plate on their car and then gave me my own candy. Score!!!
Ready to beam up
Appropriately, I got candy from this house
I hope you had a good October. It was fun for me. I’m looking forward to November and returning to my local race, the Philadelphia Marathon and to cheering on my wife in the 2016 TCS New York City Marathon at the beginning of the month.
A fun month with lots of running, relaxation and family time. No races this month but lots of other activies.
August 2016 – Nike+ Summary
This month was the most running I had done in a long time as I am ramping up the training for the upcoming Mohawk-Hudson River Marathon in early October. We also had a family vacation so I used this extra time to get a few extra miles in (I ate a lot of ice cream that week).
I didn’t do too much cross training this month. The majority of my miles were from running although I did do a couple of swim sessions totaling just over 3 miles. No bike riding this month though.
Garmin Connect – August 2016
The month started off with a quick work trip to Atlanta. Atlanta in August is hot hot hot. I had a couple of hot runs out there but I was fortunate that the hotel where I stayed provided cold towels in their gym so as soon as I returned from my run I went up to the gym and grabbed a couple of cold towels to cool down. BEST THING EVER.
Cold towels provided to hotel guests. So welcome.
I got back from Atlanta and we took a quick family trip to Washington DC to see some of the sites and explore the museums. It was a really hot and humid weekend but the boys were troopers and the museums were nicely air conditioned so that helped.
A great family weekend in the Nation’s capital.
Another week at work followed but I took the Friday afternoon off to see my boys to finish their summer day camp. I was happy that my son came home with the following award from his bunk at day camp. I can only hope he enjoys running as much as I have over the last few years.
My future pro?
Packing with a 6 year old is always a challenge/fun. Here I am trying to pack my bag…he was lucky I didn’t put him on the roof with the rest of the luggage!!
My 6 year old’s attempt at packing a suitcase. Not what we had in mind.
Finally we were all packed and headed out on the road to Myrtle Beach, South Carolina. Looking forward to a week of family fun together.
On the road
So, Myrtle Beach in August is hot and humid. Very. I haven’t really done marathon training in the Southern States during the summer and it was quite a shock to the system. I had on my plan a 17 mile run at the beginning of my vacation and an 18 mile run before heading home. I had plenty of time to relax during the week so I didn’t mind getting up early to beat the heat. There were, however, a couple of times when the heat nearly beat me. Thankfully I run with a debit card and a $5 bill in my running belt when I travel away from home. This was the first time that I had to stop midway during a run to refill my 50oz Camelbak water pack.
I had to stop around mile 9 of my 17 mile run to replenish all my fluids.
I’m not exaggerating (well maybe a little) but I swear I saw this on my run:
Anyway, hot or not, there was ice cream to be had this holiday in addition to daily rounds of mini golf for the boys so there were daily runs by everyone in the family. We had been working with the boys to run a 5K this summer and I had signed them both up for the runDisney ‘Virtual Running Shorts‘ series so by the time we reached the end of summer they could run a 5K and earn the ‘Red Pants’ medal.
Despite the heat and humidity (they would be running later in the morning than I would) they both managed to run and finish their 5Ks. Luckily we planned the route so everyone finished at Dunkin’ Donuts everyday for a treat and some chocolate milk (and coffee for the parents). Both boys seemed to really enjoy the experience (one more than the other) and they were both totally thrilled when I produced the medals for them to wear.
Asher completed his run first.
Micah completed his run the next day.
Both boys were really happy with their new medals. The medal was quite impressive.
It was a great vacation (the boys said it was the best ever) but ultimately it had to come to an end and we had to get back home and get ready for the start of the new school year.
A fun family vacation.
Back home and shopping for school supplies.
August was a fun month and as we wound down our vacation ready for the new school year we look forward to what September will bring.
On July 9th I completed my first half iron distance triathlon at Williams Lake, NY up in the Hudson Valley put on by the HITS Triathlon Series. This is a 70.3 mile event made up of a 1.2 mile swim, a 56 mile bike ride and a 13.1 mile run.
Since I started running back in the late summer of 2010 I have achieved many things I didn’t think possible. Just getting off the couch and training for a 5K was a big accomplishment for me. Slowly I built up my running endurance and 15 months after my first run I finished my first marathon, the 2011 Philadelphia Marathon. Since then I have achieved some big milestones for myself. In May this year I completed my 15th marathon and I have completed a number of the runDisney Challenge races and even an ultra distance run.
However, I never even considered a triathlon. I don’t know what made me finally decide but in late 2014 I signed up for my first triathlon, the New Jersey State Triathlon for the Olympic distance in July 2015. My problem was that I hadn’t been swimming in years and I needed a lot of work. I ended up freaking out a few weeks before the race and stepping back my distance to the sprint triathlon as I was really nervous for the swim. I did conquer the swim in my first triathlon but unfortunately the race did not turn out as planned. It was cancelled due to a lightning storm mid race. I quickly rebounded by signing up for another sprint distance a couple of weeks later and finally completed a triathlon. I followed up that after some encouragement (peer pressure) by a number of work colleagues to sign up for another local sprint triathlon which I successfully completed. Okay, my triathlons were over. Done. Complete…Or so I thought.
Competing in the Medford Lakes Colony Sprint Triathlon last August.
Some of my friends were talking about doing longer distance triathlons and a few were actively talking about half iron and full iron distance races. Around the same time they announced a new 70.3 distance race down in Atlantic City, NJ and I was considering that, however, it was a little costly and the timing didn’t work out. I also lacked the ability to swim far enough at the time (or so I thought) and I only owned a hybrid bike which I knew wouldn’t get me through a longer distance race. Speaking to my friend Bob, he mentioned that he had signed up for a smaller sized 70.3 race up in the Hudson Valley. It was also held on a Saturday so it wouldn’t take up a full weekend away and it was a good value (about the same price of a runDisney half marathon). I looked into it and thought maybe…I just had to convince my Wife. Challenge accepted!
Somewhere somehow my Wife was informed (probably by my Sister-in-law) that triathlons involved swimming in shark infested waters. I had to convince her that there were no sharks. All my previous sprint tri’s were in ponds or man-made lakes but she was still convinced there would be sharks. I explained that (at the time I signed up) the swim was held in a bend in the Hudson River and that there were no news reports of sharks in Upstate New York (bears maybe but not sharks). She then asked if I had enough life insurance and whether it was fully paid up. Seeing as my Father-in-law is our insurance agent I said we were covered and paid up. Finally she said I could do it as she knows there was no talking me out of it. So, in early November last year I signed up for my first 70.3 race, the HITS Kingston, NY Triathlon.
Now that I was signed up I found a half iron distance training plan that seemed to fit into my schedule from Endurance Works, I joined LA Fitness so I could go swimming regularly (the plan called for at least 3 swims per week, I subscribed to a swim training plan (Tri Swim Coach) and purchased a road bike (with all my saved up gift cards and a some birthday money) from my local bike store (Guy’s Bicycles). The training plan fit in perfectly between the New Jersey Marathon and the actual race. I steadily built up my swim distance and endurance in the pool and got used to sitting on that bike saddle for a few hours. By the time the race approached I felt that I was ready, nervous…but ready.
One final thing I needed to take care of was a wetsuit. I hadn’t used a wetsuit for any of the sprint distance tri’s I had done last year but based upon the distance it was recommended that I take advantage of the extra buoyancy a suit would provide me and so not wanting to jump into a big expense straight away I decided to rent a wetsuit. I ended up renting from a company based in Florida called Tri Wetsuit Rentals. The owner, Mike, was very helpful in answering my questions about sizing and suggested a couple of suits and even said that in the (unlikely) event that I lose some weight before, all I had to do was call before the suit was shipped in late June and let him know.
I had my first minor freak out when the wetsuit shipped but got lost by the US Postal service for about a week. I could see from the tracking information that it was close but it had gone via multiple post offices including my local post office more than once before it was finally delivered exactly one week before I was due to leave for the race. Mike was very helpful throughout and we had a ‘Plan B’ to send a replacement but thankfully it wasn’t required. Unfortunately I missed my last opportunity to try out the suit in an open water swim with the Bucks County Tri Club as the suit arrived too late. I wouldn’t get a chance to try the suit in the water before race day. I did watch a few YouTube videos in advance of receiving the wetsuit (some more helpful than others) on how to get into and out of a wetsuit, none of which helped prepare me for the full body workout that was putting one on without any help!!! It was a struggle the first time but after a couple of attempts I found a method that worked best for me.
For someone who has been overweight most of their life, having Orca emblazoned across your chest isn’t exactly flattering.
When my Wife saw this she had a field day with orca related jokes…
Thanks honey for all your support…
Race weekend finally arrived. I had been in touch with my friend Bob over the weeks leading up to the race and we had planned to meet at the staging area (Williams Lake) and get a quick open water swim and then grab lunch before the mandatory athletes’ meeting that afternoon.
Having taken a vacation day from work I packed up my car and headed (via a quick stop at my chiropractor for a last-minute alignment check) on my way to Kingston, NY.
On my way. 70.3 or bust!
Thankfully it was a smooth and easy ride up. About 30 minutes out from my destination I pulled over at services to grab a drink and a snack before the last leg of the journey and happened to bump into Bob who was also on his way up to meet me. I followed him the rest of the way to the race area and we quickly set about getting ready for a swim. Bob gave me a couple of tips on putting on the wet suit and we headed down to the water. It was a hot and sunny day and the water temperature was really nice. It was time for my first wet suit swim…I let Bob go first.
Arriving at the race site. This confirmed we were in the right place.
The finish line just a day away.
Williams Lake. The buoys were being set up as we arrived.
Bob went first. We planned to swim out and back to the first buoy.
Not nervous at all…
I ventured out. Bob advised me to go a little slower than I would in the pool to keep my heart rate down as you can quickly overheat in a wetsuit. Once I started swimming it did feel a little weird and there were a couple of anxious moments early on but I followed his advice and I set out to the buoy, circled around it and came back. One thing that was very evident from my swim is that my sighting in the water needs a heck of a lot of improvement…that would be evident the following day as well. As you can see from the GPS map below, this was supposed to be a simple out and back, i.e. pretty much a straight line. Not quite.
Not the best sense of direction
I did it. A little out of breath but I got it done.
Even though it was a short swim I felt comfortable in the wetsuit, the water temperature was warm but not too warm and the spring fed lake was clear (you could see your hands in front of your face!).
After we both completed the swim we stayed to talk to a few of the people setting up and looked around the staging area. This was a small race to be sure. There were 5 events going on the next day – full distance, half distance, Olympic distance, sprint distance and an open distance.
Hanging the suit up to dry
The packet pickup tent
Swim course map – Two loops around the lake
Bike route around the Ashokan Reservoir
The updated run course
A small merchandise tent who made custom shirts on request (more on that later)
When I had signed up for the race originally it was a two-day event. The swim was supposed to be in a bend in the Hudson River in Kingston, NY with the full and half distance being held on the Saturday and all other races being held on Sunday. Back in February it was announced that the location was moving to Williams Lake in Rosendale and that it would be a one day event with the races staged at 4 different times during the day (the full and half would start together).
After the swim we went to pick up our race packets. I have to say that the staff were all very friendly. The staff took time to ask if we were okay and were happy to chat and answer questions.
Bob and I headed into Rosendale and had lunch at a small cafe with lots of vegetarian options (perfect for me) and chatted over lunch. Bob showed me how to use my Garmin 910 in multisport mode which I hadn’t really tried before. We then headed back a few minutes before the Race Director started the athletes meeting.
Tom Struzzieri, the founder and CEO of HITS, was there to talk us through each leg of the event, the how to’s of the transition area and the weather outlook for the next day. He shared the plans for the aid stations and explained what would be provided even down to how many scoops of Heed would be in the pre-made water bottles on the bike rides (so that we had an idea how much nutrition to carry and could take in on the route).
The race director giving the pre-race athletes meeting
The weather overnight was forecast with a storm and lots of rain. As the race wasn’t too big most people decided not to check in their bikes the night before so we could keep all our equipment dry and bring it the next day.
After the meeting Bob and I took a walk through the transition areas and walked the start of the run course. As the course had changed from the original location I hadn’t seen the new map. The course was described as an initial run out, a loop through a cave (a bat cave…) and then a double out and back along the Wallkill Valley Rail Trail across the Rosendale Trestle Bridge.
Everyone was provided with their own individual transition box. It was spacious compared to other events I have taken part in and the stool they provided was a nice touch.
The exit from the swim to transition
The exit from transition to the bike course.
And back to transition. You can see from the debris on the side of the transition that this whole area is currently under development. This should make the site much more attractive and with added features in the coming years.
The view back into the transition at the start of the run
I hadn’t realized before now but as soon as we started walking the course we saw it was a proper trail, i.e. not paved…mud, rocks, sticks and roots…and a bat cave.
Yes…that’s a trail.
I will point out that this is ‘before’ the heavy rain that fell overnight.
Yup, that’s a cave.
They said there were bats in side.
I just looked straight ahead to the exit and didn’t look deep into the cave. No need to cause a kerfuffle with the locals…
I’m ready for the next day. I may have to change my outfit though.
Bob and I decided around 4pm to head back to our respective lodgings (I was about 15 minutes away in a hotel in Kingston and he was staying with family about 30 minutes south) and so we wished each other a relaxing evening and said we would see each other bright and early the next day.
By the way, you may notice from the above picture that I am wearing a ‘Team Up! Autism Speaks’ shirt. Since 2013 I have run a number of events for this charity and this was the first year I had missed running the Walt Disney World Marathon (or Challenge) with them. Over the last three years I have raised close to $13,000 for the cause. As this was to be a special event for me I decided to dedicate my race to continue to raise funds for them and I signed up through their Team Up! Your Way with the goal of raising $1,000. I’m pleased to say that in addition to completing my event (spoiler alert) I was able to meet my goal. As of the date of posting this recap I have raised a total of $1,092.
I headed to my hotel in Kingston and moved all my gear (not packing light) into my room on the second floor.
My two-wheeled roommate for the night.
I quickly looked through my race packet to make sure I had everything and decided to find somewhere local for an early dinner. As I was traveling on my own I asked the front desk at the hotel for places to eat and was recommended the Olympia Diner across the street. Well, I love a good diner so I was happy to head over and see what they had. Although the diner was just across the street there was a huge downpour and I ended up driving over. Glad I didn’t leave my bike outdoors overnight.
After a meal of gazpacho and spaghetti marinara, I followed my usual pre-race routine…a cookie (unfortunately not oatmeal raisin)…and headed back to the hotel and started getting ready for the next morning with a goal of getting some sleep.
My pre-race ritual. Stick with what works, right?
I unpacked all my gear for transition and laid it all out for one final check. As you will notice from the pictures below I used flash cards in my shoes to remind me of the steps I would need to remember in transition if I was not thinking too clearly in real-time the next day.
I think that’s everything.
Cut me some slack…I’m 44 with two kids. Sometimes I cannot even remember their names.
At least I didn’t have to tell myself which wrist to put it on.
With all my gear repacked I took a hot shower and put myself to bed around 8pm hoping to get as much sleep as I could.
My Fitbit shows that I got just under 7 hours of sleep, waking up just before my 4AM alarm (one of three that I had set just in case). I made myself a cup of coffee and tried to remain as relaxed as possible. I grabbed my pre-race Powerbar for breakfast and checked my emails, other messages and the weather before getting all my gear ready. As expected, my Wife sent me a message wishing me all the best in her own way.
Thanks again honey…
My training plan sent me this message to my inbox.
I headed out around 5:15AM to the race site. There had been plenty of rain overnight and you could the result of the storm as there was quite a bit of debris on the road. I was a little nervous about riding in the rain on my road bike tires. I already had concerns about the elevation of the course and making the cut off time (I hadn’t trained too much on hills). I had never ridden on wet roads before.
When I got to the race site the course had been impacted by the rain too. Although the temperature had cooled considerably the parts of the parking areas were under water. I arrived as cars and trucks were being towed out after getting stuck in the mud. I moved my car further away on some higher ground and started to unpack.
Cars being towed out.
The aftermath. I hadn’t considered what it would do to the running trail yet.
I’m here, the bike was pumped up and so was I.
On Thursday night before I left I decided at the last-minute to grab a few kitchen trash bags to pack up any wet and dirty gear after the race. I’m glad I did as there was more rain scheduled for later in the day. I’m so glad I had them with me as when I got to transition it was very wet underfoot (and squishy) and so I used one of the bags as a waterproof barrier between the ground and my transition set up. With the extra bags I wrapped up my bike and running gear to protect them from the rain that was predicted. That was a good move.
My home base for the next few hours.
I ate my Honey Stinger waffle for a last-minute fuel top up and after a couple of bathroom breaks I got my swim gear ready and my wetsuit on and made my way through the transition to the edge of the lake.
Everyone getting ready in transition.
Ready to suit up. See you in a few hours.
As we got to the beach for the final race announcements before the start the race director asked that due to the road conditions that we are extra vigilant on the bikes and announced that they had people out on the course doing clean up where ever needed so that conditions would be as best as they could get them for us for the bike.
The race was scheduled to start at 7AM. The full and half distance athletes were due to go off at the same time. The full distance athletes would swim four times around the buoys and the half distance athletes twice. My plan was to stay steady and smooth and try to keep my heart rate down. As the race started I stayed at the back of the pack and waited until almost everyone was in the water. I didn’t plan on getting into a mess right out of the gate.
The temperature was great, a couple of degrees cooler than yesterday, and my plan was to keep a steady rhythm. My sighting wasn’t perfect…I did veer of course a couple of times but it got better as I started to get into a groove. I actually found myself passing a few people. I could feel the difference that a wetsuit provides. It was a definite help. My confidence was building as I rounded the first loop and I was able to maintain the same rhythm on my second loop. I still had a couple of sighting issues but if you look at my map below I didn’t do too bad. Ultimately my distance swam was 1.4 miles not 1.2. Not sure if it was my bad sighting or the GPS trying to grab a signal which led to the difference but I was pretty happy.
The official results had me at 54:32 for the swim. I was pleased with that. Anything under an hour for that distance was a win for me. I actually got out the water and wasn’t too out of breath. As I got out the water the race had ‘strippers’, volunteers to help you get out the wetsuit. On a side note I mentioned that in the car the next day when I was talking to my wife. She was quite taken aback…however, two little voices from the back of the car then asked “Daddy, what’s a stripper?” Oops. I explained in triathlon terms. Move along. Nothing to see here.
As I got out the water there was a little light rain. I’m glad I had my gear wrapped up. I was even more glad for the stool. I was a more tired from the swim than I thought I would be. I dried off my legs and my feet, covered them in talc and popped on my Injinji socks (not the best at helping me rush through transition). 8:02 in transition. Not good but I had a 56 mile ride ahead of me and I wanted to make sure I was ready (my longest ride previous to this was 52 miles on a bike trainer). I quickly ate an energy gel and grabbed my bike and headed out.
Once out of transition and on the bike I started slowly. I started out on the small chain ring so that I wasn’t beating up my legs early into the ride. I didn’t get out of the small chain ring for the first 8 miles.
The bike route
Bike elevation chart
The first big hill (big for me) was around mile 6. Thankfully I was able to get up the hill and knew that somewhere on the back of the course I would probably make up some time coming down the same hill. My cadence and speed were not very fast for the first hour. It was really a matter of me getting up the hills for the ride around the reservoir. My goal was to maintain an average speed over 14mph so that I would make the four hour cut off. After the first hour it wasn’t looking good…13mph. I settled into a rhythm on the bike and as the course flattened out in areas I was able to make up some time. There was light rain at the time and I had to stop a couple of times to wipe clear my glasses as they were getting wetter and wetter.
Around mile 20 the heavens opened. This was rain. The real stuff. Not the wet misty type that had been going on from the start. It was a slog for the next 20 or so miles as the rain continued. For someone who was nervous about riding in the rain and worried about the bike cut off this was not a good combination.
What I can commend the race organizers for is that despite the conditions out there, each turn on the course was clearly marked out or was manned by police or volunteers who stood out in the rain the whole time. For a race with such a small field it must have seemed a very arduous task and I fully appreciate all the volunteers that day.
There were two aid stations, one of which we passed twice, for a total of three stops. The first was around mile 12 just after we had climbed a big hill. I made a quick porta potty stop there (obviously I had been hydrating to this point) and grabbed some more fluids. The aid stations provided Hammer gels, Heed and water. The second stop was around mile 30 I think. When I got there the rain was heavy. The table was set up for a bottle exchange. I stopped and poured a bottle of Heed mix in with my existing bottle of Heed and moved on as there was no point in hanging around too long with the rain.
One thing that I will take away from the ride is that I am weakest on the bike. I have definitely become more comfortable in the seat but I did most of my riding either on the bike trainer or outside in an enclosed park loop with little elevation. It showed. I need to do more hill riding and get my cadence up. It’s all too easy to ride for three hours watching movies but I really need to know how to maintain a high cadence with my legs and how and when to push. I also need to learn how to properly fuel while riding. I kept to my plan on taking in an energy gel every 45 minutes but I had to pull over each time for fear of falling off the bike. I was able to maintain my drinking every 15-20 minutes just slowing down while I used a bottle.
The route along the reservoir itself was beautiful…well at least what I could make out through the rain and clouds was beautiful. There seemed to be a lot of ‘S bend’ curves as the road travelled around the reservoir and by this point we were sharing the road with cars. We had travelled down a major road (Route 213) earlier, however, there was a wide shoulder and although cars and trucks were zipping by, there was plenty of space for riding.
I played leapfrog along the bike course with a couple of other riders almost the whole way. I didn’t catch up with many people nor was I passed too often other than by participants in the full distance race on their much more expensive and faster tri bikes.
Finally, with about 15 miles to go the rain ceased and the skies cleared a little or maybe just the clouds got thinner. Either way the last 15 miles were more comfortable weather wise. My socks inside my shoes were soaked through by the rain and so I had to endure the sound of squelching for the last hour but I figured it was a small price to pay. My average speed was now over 14.5mph so I knew I would make it under the time limit and I still had a couple of large downhill rides.
The roads were still damp on the reverse trip down to the transition area but I flew down them (white knuckled). At one point I hit over 36mph. I’m not one for riding roller coasters…and this to me felt almost as freaky. I guess that’s another thing I have to get used to in training.
I finally made it back into transition with a time of 3:48:19 (official split was 3:48:58). Not great by any means but a) not last, and b) under the cut off. I now have a baseline for a 1.2 mile open water swim and a 56 mile bike ride (although my actual GPS distance was just over 55 miles).
On returning to transition after the rain I was glad to have kept my gear wrapped up in those trash liners and was extremely pleased that I had packed a second pair of socks. My feet were soaked through and I pretty much had to repeat almost the same transition that I had after the swim (minus the wetsuit). Dry off, talc on feet and the struggle back into the Injinji socks!!! Time in second transition was 6:01. Slow but typically it would just be changing shoes and swapping my helmet for a visor. I took the opportunity to take another energy gel before heading out on the run.
I’ve done many brick work outs in training (bike to run transition) but never after a 56 mile ride nor anything longer than a 30 minute run. This was going to be interesting.
As I headed out to start the run the ground was more soaked than before. As I ran up the hill to the first aid station I was told that the ‘bat cave’ was wet and to be careful. That was an understatement. I hadn’t even reached the cave yet and I was already having to be careful with my footing. The trail was soggy and puddle filled. In fact there were a couple of places early on where I had to walk for fear of slipping in the mud. I didn’t expect to run my normal pace for the half marathon (my PR is 1:51) but I also didn’t expect my first mile split to be 11.36min/mile.
When I had walked the course the previous day I wasn’t wearing sunglasses so when I got to the cave I could kind of see my way through with the little daylight that was streaming through the entrance and exit. I was also walking. Today I was running and wearing sunglasses. BIG difference. Once I hit the cave I could barely see. I decided to take the higher ground on the left of the cave on the assumption that it might be drier as the water would flow down to the lower side. What I didn’t know about or see was that there were rocks on that side. I tripped…twice. While I didn’t wipe out I was a little shaken and pretty much ended up walking through the cave rather than run (hence the slow 1st mile).
Once out the cave I was back in the daylight and it was then just the double out and back to run. The ground was still soaked, soft, slippy and puddled in many places. My nice clean shoes didn’t stay that way for very long. I stepped in a few places where I went down into muddy water to the tops of my shoes. I had been glad I had some dry socks on to start with but they were soon beginning to get damp from the ground below.
The run was a double out and back.
I passed the first aid station again (I would see it two more times) and the folks manning the table were very cheery and supportive. Each aid station stocked water, Heed, flat Coke, chips, orange slices, candy and cookies. At first I drank only water and Heed at each station (there were another two out on the course) but as it was getting hotter and I was beginning to feel more tired so I started to dunk a cup of cold water over my head at each station too.
I passed Bob on my way out the first time. He had a much stronger ride than me and was at least 30 minutes ahead of me. Just before the third aid station we ran across the Rosendale Trestle Bridge. If you are scared of heights you may want to rethink this race. The bridge was wide, sturdy and safe but quite a way up.
Rosendale Trestle Bridge (picture from the HITS Facebook page)
An aerial shot of the bridge on a much sunnier day
It was a spectacular setting and the benefit of running mostly in the shade kept temperatures down. It wasn’t the sunniest of afternoons as there was still a lot of cloud cover but it did feel cooler in the shade.
The turnaround was about a mile past the bridge and at that point I was taking my time negotiating points on the trail that were like mud rivers. Nevertheless it was a keep moving forward mentality. By this stage I had been on the go for over 5 hours and counting.
On my way back to the first aid station (and turnaround for the second leg) I took another energy gel to give myself a boost. I needed something at that point. At the aid station one of the volunteers suggested I take in some flat Coke. I had heard that ultra runners used this as a quick sugar energy boost and as I had just taken a gel I decided to pass this time around but as I progressed on my second out and back I decided to try something new (yeah…during a race…smart!). Luckily I had no bad reaction to ingesting the flat Coke. I haven’t had any soda since quitting last August so this was a bit weird. I had sworn off soda and now I couldn’t get enough… I was still pouring water over my head at each aid station but I was now substituting the Coke for the Heed just to keep me going.
It was at this point that I started playing the math game. I had no goal time other than to finish somewhere between 7-7.5 hours and I knew that my bike leg would eat up a great deal of that time. I was now looking at my Garmin every few minutes to see how much distance and time was left. I had seen Bob on the second out and back as I was going out and he was coming back. I figured he would be done before I reached the turnaround for the second time.
As I rounded the turnaround for the last time I began to realize that I had just under 5 miles to go. I could do this. I was going to do this. Having once run 39.3 miles in 7 hours I knew I had the endurance, but that was straight running and now I was beginning to feel a soreness in my left quad and hamstring from the bike. Everything else felt good other than tired and achy shoulders. I just put one foot in front of the other, walked around the muddy parts and powered on until I saw the first aid station for the final time.
Once I hit the aid station it was just a small up and down hill to the finish line. This was not a fast half marathon for me by any means but I was going to be under 2:20 and that meant I would be under 7:20 total time. I just had to make it another half mile to the finish.
Rounding the corner to the finish I could see Bob standing by the finish line and he had his camera out taking photos of me coming in. I ran up and gave him a fist bump and turned towards the finish line where to my surprise my Wife’s Aunt had driven down with her family from Albany (about an hour north) to meet me at the finish line. What a wonderful gesture. Totally unexpected. I got so excited I jumped high in the air as I crossed the finish line. Having family and friends meet me at the finish really lifted my spirits and took away any tiredness I was feeling.
Bob took this photo of me running into the finish
Woohoo….70.3 DONE!!! (Thanks for the photo Francine)
Hey, I know you!
Let me stop my Garmin so I can give you a High Five
I arrived during the awards ceremony so, as had been my luck all through the event, I missed having a photo taken by the official photographer. Luckily, between Bob and his wife Francine and my family I was able to get some photos at the finish line. A volunteer handed me my medal and a bottle of water and I stopped to catch my breath and take some finish line photos with everyone.
Nice to have a family meet me at the finish (Thank you Nadine, Steve and Benjamin)
Bob and I. He looks a little more rested than me.
Bob making sure I saved my multisport event file.
My official finish time was 7 hours 15 minutes. Not great…but not last. I did my first half iron distance triathlon and finished smiling. That’s enough for me. Will I do another 70.3? Probably, but I’m going to enjoy this one for a long time.
I said goodbye to Bob who had been waiting to see me finish and went over to transition to pack up my gear. My family wanted to take me to lunch (a late lunch) before I had to drive home. There wasn’t much food left by the time I had finished. I was told they were going to order more food (pizza) within the hour for the final finishers and for the full distance finishers. I decided that I would be better off having a full meal to refuel.
So much for my fancy shoes…
…and fancy socks. Just a little muddy
In transition I used the changing tents to put on some dry clothes. Those trash bags came in handy as I threw all my wet gear and towels into them to carry to the car. Before I left transition I sat down and took it all in. I had just finished my first 70.3. It was a different feeling than finishing my first marathon. That was a runners high which lasted days. This was more a mix of joy and relief. I tried to explain to someone a couple of days later that sometimes when I run I can zone out and just get into a rhythm until I am near the finish line. With the triathlon it’s a matter of focus, concentration and technique. You cannot really zone out doing a triathlon. You’ll drown or crash!!! I’m pleased to say I did neither.
I quickly called my parents in the UK to let them know I was done. I’m 44 and I still call my mother to let her know I’m okay 🙂
Once I was dressed, the car packed and the bike racked we headed to Kingston where we had a late lunch/early dinner at an Irish pub. Those were the best fish and chips I’d had all day! I drank lots of water to rehydrate and a few cups of coffee to keep me awake before I said goodbye to the family and headed for my three-hour drive home…with a HUGE smile on my face.
The guy on the left in 2010 has just finished a half iron distance traithlon in 2016
I really enjoyed the event. HITS put on a professional, supportive and friendly event. For anyone dipping their toes into longer distance triathlons I would recommend one of their events. Their communication was responsive in the weeks leading up to the event, the staff were friendly the whole weekend and it was just a relaxed informal atmosphere the whole weekend. They took care of the athletes and it was good value for money compared to some of the other big race organizations out there. Check out their events list.
Oh, by the time I got to the finish line the merchandise tent was being taken down. I wasn’t able to get a finisher shirt that I had spoken to the supplier about the day before. I was waiting until after so not to jinx myself. The owner gave me his card and told me to call him the following week and he would customize any shirts that I wanted and ship them to me. Pricing was very reasonable so I followed up and ordered a customized long sleeve and short sleeve ‘70.3 Finisher’ shirt. Nice.
That night I had a pretty good long deep sleep.
Something like this. Even my kids let me sleep in.
In my inbox the next day was this message from my training plan. I didn’t need telling twice 🙂
Thank you for sticking with me for this (longer than normal) race recap. At least this took you less than 7 hours to read.
Okay, so I know this is late June as I write, but May is still technically last month so I’m squeezing in a late ‘Month in review’ (you’ll understand why below).
May 2016 – Nike+ Summary
At the beginning of the month my wife and I ran the 2016 New Jersey Marathon. You can see the distance recorded at the start of the monthly summary. What you see after that is a long gap of 9 days between runs and a total of just under 84 miles run in the month. I shall explain shortly. As you can see from my Garmin data below (where I record all activities swim/bike/run) I covered a total of 288 miles (8 miles swimming, 196 miles on the bike and 84 miles running) as my focus after the marathon was on training for my half iron distance triathlon in July.
May 2016 – Garmin Connect Summary
As I mentioned in the review of the 2016 New Jersey Marathon, it was a very wet and cold day. After the race I came down with a cold and a bad sinus infection which resulted in a nice expensive journey to the Minute Clinic early on a Sunday morning to get a prescription for some antibiotics. In addition to this, I had a pretty bad cough which led to some sore chest and back muscles. I took a few days of rest to help everything clear up. I thought I was doing okay so I got up on the morning of the 10th to do a bike workout and as I bent over to put on my bike cleats I threw my back out. Ouch….a long crawl back to bed where I was laid flat on my back for two days with a strained sacroiliac joint. That kind of put a damper on all the triathlon training I had planned.
I ended up missing almost two weeks of my training plan and was getting a little concerned as I haven’t gone beyond a sprint triathlon before. Multiple trips to the chiropractor over a series of a few days, lots of ice and heat treatment and I started to loosen up. My wife was the race director for an inaugural 5K for her company and we had been the first to sign up. I was a little concerned about running still so I took an easy 2 mile run the day before to see if all was okay. Thankfully it was. No sign of any recurrence. I was feeling good going into the race.
The morning of the 5K my wife left early to set up so I headed down with my Father-in-law and the boys. My Father-in-law and I were running the 5K and the boys were running in the 1 mile run which took place after the 5K had completed. We got to Cooper River Park early and my boys went straight to the post race refreshment table. I don’t even want to know how many donuts they ate while I was getting everyone’s bibs for the race. I was still a little concerned about my back but the park looked pretty flat so I thought I would see what kind of pace I could maintain as I don’t run many shorter distance races these days.
My favorite Race Director
Ready to run the Freedom Mortgage 5K and 1 mile Fun Run
I actually ended up running a very decent pace (although the race was actually more than a half mile longer than a 5K). I ended up 10th overall and placed 3rd in my age group with a sub 8 minute pace. Pretty happy considering that I was laid flat on my back a few days earlier.
Good enough for 3rd place in my age group.
Proud parent moment. The Heir and the Spare running the 1 Mile Fun Run
Priceless. Crossing the finish line
Two very happy boys.
My eldest however didn’t realize how many laps made up the mile distance. It took him a few minutes to recover.
With the boys new-found excitement for running we decided to do what we could to encourage them to do some more. I signed both boys up for another 1 mile fun run on July 4th (the Washington Crossing Revolutionary Run which I ran last year) and I also signed them up for the new Disney Shorts Virtual 5K. We plan to train with them all summer and run the actual 5K when we are on vacation in Myrtle Beach in late August. I will give them their medals and they can wear them around the beach resort.
Mickey Shorts medal
We took the boys out to run along the Delaware Canal Towpath over the Memorial Day weekend which was a lot of fun. Hot, but fun. As we did when we ran with them in the stroller together, we started and finished outside of our favorite bakery so there was some incentive to their efforts.
Running south on the canal on our first outing.
Running north on the canal on our second outing.
Running back to the bakery on our second outing.
Now that I was feeling back to normal it was headfirst into the triathlon training. I’ve trained many times for marathons but this was a whole lot different and much more intense. I guess it’s the daily double workouts typically about an hour each which is the main difference. I am doing my second workouts sometimes after the boys are in bed and it is pretty late for someone like me who is usually an early bird when it comes to training.
The biking and running brick workouts on Saturday are typically more time than I spend exercising especially when I still have my long runs to do on Sundays. It is worth it to achieve my goals but it is exhausting. I’m sure it will all pay off as I have put in a lot of effort to try not to miss any scheduled workouts. I am feeling much better with my swim. I still have my concerns about the bike but I am at least feeling a little more comfortable in the saddle. You can see from the summary below how much time I am putting into this.
Training Peaks workout summary for the triathlon training.
And how early I am getting up to do these workouts (from my Fitbit sleep tracking).
With all this extra training, it does build confidence. I am feeling stronger in the pool and I’m actually enjoying and looking forward to my swim sessions. The bike, I’m still ‘eh’ for now but hopefully I’ll be more comfortable as my training progresses in June.
Thanks for taking the time to read. Apologies for the late write-up. As I said when I began, technically it is still last month so I’m getting in before the SAG wagon creeps up on me.