Rutgers UNITE Half Marathon – Race recap

Admittedly I am falling behind on updating my blog. With a few big events coming up in the next few weeks I have to catch up so expect a few back to back posts over the next few days.

Back in April I ran my third Rutgers UNITE Half Marathon. I have not run this race since 2016 and as the last time I ran this I earned my half marathon PR this is one of my favorites. I had a quick time in both 2015 and 2016. Admittedly I am nowhere near the shape I was in in 2016 (I’ve been a little out of sorts physically since my accident in the 2017 Rev3 Williamsburg Half Ironman…okay, I’ve added a few pounds) but I was looking to a fairly decent time considering the course.

This race is put on by CGI Racing which is one of my favorite race organizers. Responsible for ‘The LOVE Run‘ and the ‘New Jersey State Triathlon‘ which are always well organized. Unlike the last time I ran, they were not offering race day packet pickup which meant I had to do the trek up and back to New Brunswick twice that weekend. It’s about an hour each way from where I live so not the end of the world. At least this year it did not fall on an alumni weekend and I was able to get quickly in and out of the expo.

The Expo as usual was contained in the campus sports center and it was easy to navigate in and out. Packet pickup was fairly easy and as it was small I wasn’t there too long and was able to get back home reasonably quick.

The Expo was held on campus in the sports center

A small expo but not crowded

Packet pickup was easy and the volunteers were helpful and attentive

This photo shows nothing more than I really needed a haircut!!!

Yup…still need a haircut!

Early the next day I woke up and headed out in the dark for what would be an early start to the day. The race was due to start at 8am but unlike in the prior years where I parked at the starting area and had to get a shuttle bus back from the finish line, this year I decided to park at the finish and shuttle over to the start. Knowing from prior years that it was usually cool in the morning and could warm up later, I dressed to run warm but made sure I had a few layers on prior to the race start.

When I arrived at the finish line I was early enough to get a parking space really close to the finish area and waited until I saw some other runners up and around the area to follow. The race guide suggested you could walk to the starting area and I started to follow a few runners but I realized that I needed some personal time (i.e. a bathroom stop) so headed over the to the shuttle buses that would take us over to the starting area. Needless to say, I’m glad I didn’t walk as it was quite a ride over there. Of course we couldn’t take too many short cuts with the bus but it was still a good ride that I’m glad I was not on my feet for too long before the race.

Arrived early and got a good parking spot near the finish area

I decided to take the shuttle buses to the starting area

It was a very foggy morning and I new it would be a humid run. It wasn’t too cold at the start so I checked my bag early and just hung around waiting for the start. As you can see from the pictures below, the visibility wasn’t great…but I wasn’t going to be leading the race so as long as I could see the guy in front of me I was good. A few people liked my InknBurn shirt and joked that there was no way anyone could lose me in the fog.

Entering the starting area

The fog was quite dense in the area.

You are not going to lose me in this outfit

…not to mention my shortish shorts

Ready to get moving

As the National Anthem was playing I was already in the starting corral. Having run 1:51(wish) last time I was here and although I knew I was not in the best shape I still thought I could hang with the 1:45 guys and settled myself near the 1:45 pacers waiting for the word to go. With little delay we were off.

I did a fairly good job of hanging with the pace group over the first few miles running near their pace and staying within ear shot of the pace runners as they chatted amongst themselves. As we ran through the more modern side of the campus I heard them saying they were actually running ahead of pace…as confirmed by all of us struggling to keep up with them. It was around mile 6 or 7 that a few of us commented that it was getting warmer and we seemed to be lacking aid stations in this part of the course. Nevertheless I hung on the heels of the pacers until around mile 8 when, as I was beginning to heat up, I decided that it was better to enjoy the run than to fight to maintain the pace.

The humidity was already beginning to take it’s toll on me and my heart rate was elevated so I decided to slow down and let the pace group go ahead of me. My pace dropped from 8:45 pace per mile to around 9:30 as I tried (unsuccessfully) to lower my heart rate which was now pretty much stuck in zone 5. I dropped to a run/walk for the back side of the course from mile 8 to the finish line. It was the right decision for the day.

As we crossed over from bridge high above Route 18 a fellow runner recognized me as the ‘Philly2Goofy’ guy and this cheered me as we entered the park for the long out and back. Although we drop in elevation on this half of the course it generally feels like it’s uphill for the remainder of the run up until the crest of the hill leading to the finish line.

Was I glad to see that hill, knowing that in less than half a mile we would be at the finish line. I honestly struggled on the back half. I could not get my heart rate down. I put this down to the more than a few extra pounds I had gained since running the New York City Marathon in the previous fall. It hadn’t been my best winter for maintenance. I certainly saw the results of that today as I crossed the line in just over 2:05. This was 14 minutes slower than my 2016 race or over 1 minute per mile slower over the course. Wow.

However, a finish line is a finish line and it’s always a good thing to get over it standing upright. Not my best performance by any means but far from my worst. I still like this race and would recommend it to anyone looking for a nice spring half marathon. If the weather is good it can be a fast course. Still one of my favorites.

It’s always good to cross a finish line

My 3rd Rutgers UNITE Half Marathon in the books

Post race area for the athletes

Great organization as usual

A great tasting pretzel. Earned!!!

Short shorts but a good backdrop on the old side of the campus

The finish line area is great as you are on the main campus and so there is plenty of space to sit on the grass and catch ones breath. The post race area was, as usual well, set up by the volunteers and after a soft pretzel and a cold bottle of water it was back to the comfort of my car and the journey home. Another Rutgers half in the books.

 

2018 New Jersey State Triathlon – race recap

At the end of July I made my triathlon comeback. If you recall from last year, I had a ‘slight’ accident during my Half Iron distance triathlon in Williamsburg, VA and as a result I had to pull out of this event last year. As soon as the registration opened up for 2018 I signed up. I wouldn’t say my wife was happy about it but I needed to get back in the saddle…so to speak.

The hardest thing for me going in to this event was my lack of training. Since my accident I had not either gone on a bike or trained in a pool since last July. My main concern was not the bike, I’d just go slower if needed, but training in the pool. My shoulder has not been the same since the incident and still has both an audible and physical pop when I rotate it, so when the first swim training session appeared on my TrainingPeaks app I was a little apprehensive. Fortunately, I survived that and my actual fitness in the pool wasn’t as bad as I thought it may have been. With that said, I stuck very closely to the training plan and was able to maintain and build upon my swimming strength over the next 12 weeks.

That gap certainly did a number on my fitness…well, that and the extra 10 pounds that I put on since last tri season. Oh well. I was committed now and was willing to squeeze everything into the spandex when the time called for it. What was cool about this year though was that my whole family are now riding bikes so I got to do more recreational riding with my wife and my boys.

Race week was rapidly approaching and I was getting excited and eagerly awaiting receiving my race number and final instructions. When I received my confirmation I noticed that it said ‘Aquabike’. Wait a minute? Aquabike? That’s the swim and the bike…but not the run? I quickly went back through my race registration emails and it also said aquabike. Oh no! This was a disaster. After all the build up (in my own mind) for this come back race I seemed to have registered for the wrong event. This is also a race that constantly posts updates about selling out. (Insert audible head slap here!). I emailed the race director only to get their ‘Out of Office’ response. ūüė¶ Ultimately I did get a response which told me to look to speak with them at packet pick up on the weekend to see what could be done.

I was a little concerned when I arrived at the race site on Saturday afternoon. They were just clearing up from the Saturday morning Sprint race. Fortunately the first person I spoke to happened to be the race director. Things were looking up. I explained my predicament, that this was my comeback race, that I had to pull out of last years event from injury and that I messed up (honesty is the best policy, right?) and it didn’t hurt that I was wearing a prior year event shirt and I mentioned the year when they cancelled the event mid race which was supposed to be my first triathlon. Okay, I poured it on a bit. No worries though. She walked me over to the timing table and let me adjust (and pay the extra fee) to upgrade to the Olympic triathlon. Yeah. They moved my number into the right category although I would still be racked and staged with the aquabike athletes. After that, race packet pickup was fine. I just had to swap out my swim cap color now that I was in the corrected event. Once All was taken care of I took a lap around the staging area and merchandise tent to see if there was any fun (or something unique) to buy. Seeing as I had just paid to upgrade my race the wallet stayed in my pocket this time.

The finish line for tomorrow’s event

The transition area was spacious for the event

The merchandise tent

So with everything now settled with the race all I had to do was go home, get my gear together and hope that my training had been enough (and that my confidence was there for the swim and the bike). It was a little surprising then (and not very settling for my nerves) when I got my race packet out to put with my race gear and noticed the name on the bib was not mine!!! Who the heck is ‘Gary’?

What the… #identitycrisis

I immediately jumped on to the Facebook page for the event (who doesn’t turn to Facebook for answers?) and before I sent a message to the race team I noticed that many people had experienced the bib name mess up. Phew.  I was not alone. I hadn’t picked up the wrong bib. Okay, if that is the worst that happens I’d be fine the next day.

Usually, this race is extremely hot. The water is usually so warm that wet suits are not allowed. The day is hot and sunny. This year however I woke up to find out that it had rained overnight and it was misty and cool. I arrived at the race site and racked my bike and got my equipment all set up. It had been raining and the ground was soft and damp. I laid my gear out on plastic bags to keep everything dry and packed my socks and shoes inside plastic bags as it was still misty. This was the year that people had wetsuits. I was ill prepared. It was misty and raining. I had sunscreen but no wetsuit. Oops. Anyway, I headed down to the race start by the side of the lake and waited for my wave to get into the water.

A wet start to the day and glad I brought the plastic bags

Ready for the off

As I was now in the 46-50 age group my wave was much later than it had been in previous years. We were almost one of the last waves out. It was such a big wave that it was broken into 2 groups so I was in the second half as my last name starts with ‘S’. Although apparently my first name is Gary!!! Finally the time to go arrived and I got into the water with everyone else ready for the off. The water was still warm so I was going to be okay without the wet suit.

My goal for this event was to finish (without any embarrassing incidents). My swim was okay. I managed to keep a good line but I was actually faster than my last race in 2016 when I had just finished my first 70.3 race (43 minutes in 2016 vs 40 minutes in 2018). Quite a surprise.

The swim leg

My transition was pretty much a lonely event. As I was racked with the aquabike racers, they had all set off earlier than I had. There was practically no-one around when I was in the transition area where I was set up. That’s at least good as the struggle I endure to put on Injinji socks on damp feet during a triathlon is something no-one needs to see (LOL).

With the swim portion complete it was time for the bike. Did I mention that rain and the mist? Wet roads and slick tires for someone who’s last race ended with a bike fall. Yeah, that was going to to boost my confidence at riding at speed! The transition area was wet and muddy and my cleats were caked in mud by the time I got to the bike mount area. I subsequently slipped while trying to clip in and whacked my ankle bone. Ouch!!! Eventually I was able to clip in and was off. The ride was incident free but I was over cautious especially in the corners. It didn’t help that I saw someone go down and saw an ambulance at the side of the road ūüė¶  This is where I lost a lot of time in the race. In sunny 2016 I did this course in 1:07, this year 1:34. That’s a significant decline in performance. Yes, some could be explained by road surface conditions, but how much was due to nerves. I don’t know but we will see in 2019 (I’ve registered for the correct race this time!!!)

The bike leg

The weather had begun to improve by the end of the bike leg. While the sun wasn’t out as it had been in 2016 (that day was in the 80s) but it was dry and warm. The run was uneventful for me but I saw a couple of people stagger and go down due to the heat. I was tired by the end of the run and my splits definitely declined in the second half of the 10K. I ran this slower than in 2016. I think this was more due to the extra pounds than any else. I ran this in 1:06 vs 59 minutes in 2016.

The run leg

At least I finished this event without needing a trip to the medical tent. That’s a win. I really like this event. It is well run by CGI racing. They do a great job with all their races that I have participated in (Love Run, Rutgers Unite Half). Slower this time than last time I ran the event, but I will be back in 2019 and will now have something to beat.

The spandex may be tighter than previous years but I finished without a trip to the med tent

Well done ‘Gary’!!!

December 2016 ‚Äď Month and Year in review

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

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

Nike+ Summary - December

Nike+ Summary – December

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

Garmin Connect - December 2016

Garmin Connect – December 2016

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

1,597 miles – Running

753 miles – Cycling

38 miles – Swimming

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

January – March

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

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

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

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

And finished with a fun photo opp.

And finished with a fun photo opp.

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

April

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

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

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

May

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

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

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

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

Good enough for 3rd place in my age group.

Good enough for 3rd place in my age group.

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

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

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

Priceless. Crossing the finish line

Priceless. Crossing the finish line

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

June

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

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

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

July

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

I did it!!!

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

With my friend Bob at the finish line

With my friend Bob at the finish line

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

2016 New Jersey State Triathlon

2016 New Jersey State Triathlon

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

August

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

Family vacation time

Family vacation time

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

With their Mickey Shorts medals

With their Mickey Shorts medals

September

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

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

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

2016 Hightstown Triathlon

2016 Hightstown Triathlon

2016 Rock 'n' Roll Philadelphia Half Marathon

2016 Rock ‘n’ Roll Philadelphia Half Marathon

October

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

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

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

November

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

The Great Race Chase

The Great Race Chase

My wife and her NYC Marathon finisher medal

My wife and her NYC Marathon finisher medal

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

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

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

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

Always great to cross a finish line together

Always great to cross a finish line together

In Summary

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

I cannot wait to see what 2017 brings.

On my calendar (so far):

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

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

July – New Jersey State Triathlon (Olympic Distance)

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

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

Thank you for reading.

 

 

 

 

 

April 2016 ‚Äď Month in review

 

April 2016 - Nike+ Summary

April 2016 – Nike+ Summary

My Nike summary shows a total of 122.7 miles. Added to that 35.39 miles on the bike and 0.98 miles in the pool (okay, that was just one swim) it was another active month. Actually this was supposed to be my taper to the 2016 New Jersey Marathon which you can actually see by looking at the declining long runs on this months chart.

The biggest takeaway from this month wasn’t the actual workouts but what happened to the weather. It seems like we had a very mild Winter and just skipped Spring. April is around the time I’m usually heading out the door to get my long runs in for my Spring marathons. The weather didn’t cooperate. My wife had run her last long run of 20 miles in cold and wet weather. I followed up with a long 20 mile run in rain and then snow(!). So much for Spring.

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My last long run took place under less than perfect conditions.

My last long run took place under less than perfect conditions.

Seriously...how was your run?

Seriously…how was your run?

The weather finally broke (for about a week) and I was able to get out for the first time on my new bike. It was more of a test ride to see if I was comfortable. I think so, my hands were cold from the temperature for the most part but I survived and there were no falls. I’ve got to build a lot more time in the saddle before my half iron distance triathlon this July, but it’s a start.

Sunshine and cycling. A good combination.

Sunshine and cycling. A good combination.

I had signed up for the Rutgers UNITE Half Marathon which I ran for the first time last¬†year. The weather on the day, thankfully, was phenomenal. Perfect. I couldn’t have asked for a better day. I managed to finally set a new PR at the Half Marathon distance after almost 3 years of getting close. I was very happy and would recommend the race if you are nearby. You can find my race review here and also my review on the Runner of a Certain Age podcast here.

I tried a new product this month, Honey Stinger Organic Waffles, which I used before the UNITE Half Marathon. I was loooking for something more than just a PowerBar before my races/long runs. Not as many calories as a PowerBar but more than my regular GU gel (and more tasty). These were recommended and worked out well. I took one of these waffles and a cup of coffee on my way to the race, felt good and then the PR. I cannot complain…I know it wasn’t just the waffle but it didn’t hurt.

Tasty. Have to hide them from my two boys.

Tasty. Have to hide them from my two boys.

As always, the registration for the Philadelphia Marathon opened up on April 1st. I was lucky again to be one of the first 500 registrants which provided a discounted registration. I coupled this with another discount code I received for completing a survey from them about the 2015 Philadelphia Marathon. Happy to be back to run one of my favorite races again this fall.

Back again for Philadelphia Marathon number 5 this Fall.

Back again for Philadelphia Marathon number 5 this Fall.

The New Jersey Marathon was set for May 1st so as usual before any big event I make sure that my body is ready for whatever I am going to put it through. I usually have a chiropractic adjustment the Friday before a race to make sure I am properly aligned and all the bits that are supposed to move are in fact moving. This month I also decided to add a deep tissue sports massage into the process. Ouch. Seriously, ouch. My wife asked why I didn’t say anything to the masseuse. I told her I was doing my best not to cry. Oh well, lesson learned. I did feel better…eventually.

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

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

May brings us the New Jersey Marathon and then it’s ramp up time for my half ironman training. Plenty to look forward to.

Thank you for reading.

 

2016 Rutgers UNITE Half Marathon ‚Äď Race recap

newunitetm

On Sunday April 17th I ran my 20th half marathon, the Rutgers UNITE Half Marathon. It was a race I ran in 2015 and really enjoyed (I had a good race after a long winter) and it fit nicely into my training plan for the upcoming New Jersey Marathon. This was another race put on by CGI Racing who also host the Love Run Philly and the New Jersey State Triathlon, both of which I have participated in over the last couple of years. They do put on a good event.

I was looking forward to this race as I remember it being a fast and fairly flat course and was looking forward to seeing how my pace was during race conditions. I’ve been taking it a little easy this winter as my goal is to stay fit and healthy for the upcoming HITS Hudson Valley Triathlon this July. My goal race is the Mohawk Hudson River Marathon in October. I was close to my PR last year and I felt that it was achievable the way I was training.

This year I opted to pay an extra $15 for race day packet pickup so I didn’t get to attend the expo. From what I recall from 2015 it was a small expo so I didn’t miss out on too much. The extra $15 was probably the gas and tolls I would have¬†spent driving up and back prior to the race.

The forecast was looking good and so I was able to put away the winter gear and planned on wearing a short sleeve shirt. I decided that this was a good enough excuse to debut my new INKnBURN Magnum PI tech shirt. Actually, I didn’t really need an excuse.

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Hard to tell the difference I know!!

I grabbed a cup of coffee and one of my new Honey Stinger waffles (mmm….tasty)¬†for my pre-race breakfast and set out while it was still dark for the 40 mile or so drive to the start line. I got there early on and was parked fairly close to the start line and was able to walk to packet pickup and back to my warm car (it was still a little chilly in the early hours). Packet pickup was quick and seamless, although I was told I had to pick up my shirt and mug at the finish line. Not a big deal. In fact, I probably could have arrived a little later as it was a quicker process than I thought. My tip, register for morning of race packet pickup.

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You know when you have arrived on campus

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Packet pickup was quick and easy. Just had to show ID.

rutgers

Packet pickup was quick and easy. Just had to show ID.

It had not warmed up by the time I left my car so I was wearing a warm up jacket which I planned to check so I would have it at the finish line. I had packed a large trash bag to wear in the start chute so headed out to bag check. While I was there I met up with fellow Mickey Miler and host of the Runner Of A Certain Age podcast, John. It was thanks to John that I signed up for this race last year. I hadn’t seen him for a while but I had been a guest on his podcast a couple of times before and we keep in touch on social media.

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Meeting up with John pre-race.

In writing this recap I took a look at my last year recap. As you can see below, this picture made me chuckle when I re-read last year as we took the same photo in the same spot.

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

It was almost time to start so we made our way over to the start line. I made the same mistake as I had the previous year and entered the chute at the back and had to make my way forward between the 8 and 9 minute pace groups. There were no corral placements, you would just line up¬†at the approximate pace you planned to run.¬†It was only when I reached that point that I realized I could have entered the chute¬†from the side. Oh well. Not a big deal and I was very polite as I made my way forward. I was wearing my trash bag to keep warm but realized I didn’t need it as it was warming up nicely so I took it off to the side and waited for the gun.

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I made my way from the back to my pace time area.

 

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Always a stylish choice. Black goes with everything.

 

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I made it a little closer to the front.

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Get the chopper TC. I’ll meet you at Rick’s for a cold one after the race.

As this was a goal race, I didn’t stop to take pictures of the course. The course itself was a little changed up from last year. There was more time on the newer side of the campus and it seemed to take us around more of the back of house areas than through the campus itself. There isn’t much course support from spectators as such on the back side of the campus¬†(glad I wore my headphones) and there is only so much maintenance equipment and housing blocks¬†you can see before you get bored. The second half of the race (once crossing over the highway) is more picturesque as you run through a park but you really don’t hit the campus area until after the finish.

2016.1

2016 Course –¬†more time at the back of the campus

2015.1

2015 Course – more time in the park

About 15 minutes after the half marathon started the organizers sent off the 8K runners. They started on the same place as we did but on the opposite side of the start line. Essentially they run the last 8K of the half marathon distance and would explain why we ran back through the start line around mile 8. It was noticeable that there were more water stations on the second half of the course as a result.

Personally I was having a fairly decent race. I was feeling good and the course wasn’t too congested. There were some nice open stretches and for the short inclines, there were plenty of declines. It was a fairly limited elevation through the first 8 miles. Here are my splits for the first 8 miles.

First half

My first half splits.

I was feeling good going into the second half the race. My 10K split was within a couple of minutes of my 10K PR so all I had to do was keep it going.

As I was going well I started to do running math in my head. Big mistake. It was a distraction and my numbers and timing didn’t seem to make sense. I abandoned that as it is a bad habit. I didn’t think I could make my goal time (sub 1:50) but I still knew I could make a good go of the race. There are no pictures that I took on the course but I did get this professional shot from the second half of the race.

pi

Doing my best Flyin’ Hawaiian pose.

The second half of the course in the park features a long out and back. It is about a mile and a half or so. As I had run this last year I had a sense of where I was. I remember it feeling a lot longer last year as it always does when you don’t know where the turn around is. I found this section a lot more comfortable to do this year.

Once out of the park you run through the back of a nearby neighborhood and into another park. The last couple of miles have the two biggest inclines (not hills as such). There is a final turnaround in the park as we run around a gazebo. It was at this point when I hit a mile to go that I realized I wasn’t going to hit my sub 1:50 goal, I was getting a little tired. I still thought I could be close to a PR but either way I knew it would be a good run for me.

second half

My second half splits. It shows that I slowed around mile 10.

After the final crest of course it is all downhill to the finish line. I just picked up my pace and ran it in. I was feeling strong and pushed through to the end.

I crossed the finish line with a time of 1:51:55. Really happy with my time but sad because I hadn’t PR’d. Still, I felt good.

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I grabbed a bottle of water and excited the finish chute making sure to take a couple of photos to document the experience.

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It was a great run in to the finish line.

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Happy to be done. I worked hard.

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The medal was so much nicer this year.

Before I left the finish line I took a quick look at my running data to see how close I had been to a PR when I realized that I actually had PR’d the race. No wonder my math hadn’t worked out on the course. I had my old PR of 1:52.43¬†(2013 Atlantic City April Fool‚Äôs Half Marathon recap)¬†wrong in my head and I actually PR’d the race by almost a minute.

UNITE

My official finish time.

Needless to say I was very happy once I realized. It had been over 3 years since I PR’d so you can excuse me for forgetting!

Once past the finish chute we were shepherded out to the food and back check areas. The food was well organized. Everyone was given a plastic bag containing post race refreshments as well as more water and they had Coke/Diet Coke available (although I haven’t touched soda since last August).

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Post race refreshments were restricted to runners only.

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Food bags were well organized and runners were moved very quickly through the tent.

We then were able to sit and stretch out on the lawn area just outside of the race set up. This is really a wonderful area to sit and cool down after the race. It really was the most picturesque part of the day. Shame it was after the race and not during.

 

 

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Post race food done right. There was also a bag of potato chips included.

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Definitely earned this today.

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Some nice views of the post race area.

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A great place to rest up and relax post race.

After sitting for a while I went to bag check to receive my bag. I didn’t need my jacket after all as the weather was glorious. The bag did come in useful though as I had to pick up my race shirt and mug and it was nice to have something to pack it all up as I then had to line up for the shuttle to return to the starting line to get my car.

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In additional to my medal and race shirt (not shown) I got my race mug which CGI gives out for each race.

Really pleased with my day and again this would be a race I would recommend and return to. I think I would like my wife run it next year so she gets a chance and I will do something else, probably the Love Run Philly as they are back to back weeks and both run by the same company.

I guess it was all down to the shirt for me. I was thinking of heading the blog ‘Magnum PR’ but that would have been a little too cheesy.

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I outran ‘Apollo’ and ‘Zeus’ to earn my PR.

Thanks for reading. Sorry about all the Magnum references ūüôā

December 2015 – Month and Year in review

December is over and a new year has begun. Time to take a look back at the month, the year and look forward to what 2016 has in store.

Dcember 2015 ‚Äď Nike+ Summary

December 2015 ‚Äď Nike+ Summary

For the month of December I ran 128 miles, swam 1.3 miles and cycled 39 miles. This is nothing compared to the 1,150 each way journey I embarked on from my home to visit my parents in Florida. Interesting journey…just pleased (and relieved) that my 9 and 5 year old passengers were awesome the whole way down.

2015 ‚Äď Nike+ Summary

2015 ‚Äď Nike+ Summary

All in all for the year I ran less but still racked up mileage by introducing swimming and biking as I started my triathlon career. A total of 1,964 miles for the year. 1,576 running, 366 cycling and 22 swimming. No wonder I am so tired.

Our ride to Florida. The kids were in the back, not on top (as tempting as it may seem).

Our ride to Florida. The kids were in the back, not on top (as tempting as it may seem).

See...they're in the back. This is outside a Dunkin' Donuts at 5am. #roadtrip

See…they’re in the back. This is outside a Dunkin’ Donuts at 5am. #roadtrip

After two days of travel we were glad to reach our destination

After two days of travel we were glad to reach our destination

Before I revisit the year I’ll take a quick look back for the month of December.

With such a mild December I was able to still run outside for the most part, even when I visited Atlanta, GA for business (although it was cooler there than I had expected). It was just a matter of avoiding the rain. More often than not I was outside. When I got to Florida, the weather was glorious. Very hot and humid so that slowed my pace a little but I was fortunate to have my parents look after our boys so that my wife and I could get out almost everyday for mid to long runs. It worked out great.

Nice to have a chance to run together

Nice to have a chance to run together

While we were down in Florida we signed up for a the local Bradenton Running Club’s Annual Manatee River 5 Mile Run. We even signed the boys up for the kids races. It was a hot day and not much shade but it was a good day to be out there. I also met up with my fellow Mickey Miler team-mate Robert.

Ready to run

Ready to run

Running family

Running family

Discussing race strategy

Discussing race strategy

With a fellow Mickey Miler and a junior one

With a fellow Mickey Miler and a junior one

Reward for his 200 meter run

Reward for his 200 meter run

Making it look easy

Making it look easy in the 400 meters

Beautiful location at the Emerson Point Nature Reserve in Palmetto, Florida

Beautiful location at the Emerson Point Nature Preserve in Palmetto, Florida

Being out-sprinted by my wife

Being out-sprinted by my wife

Determination

Determination

A great end to a fun year. Lots of family time and a great chance to get out and run a lot. We did eat a lot of ice cream on vacation so the running was badly needed!!

2015 – Looking Back

It was a very busy year. My wife and I ran 3 marathons together and I ran 4 in total. This included us running for Autism Speaks while we ran the Goofy Challenge at Walt Disney World back in January. We ran the Pittsburgh Marathon together in May and the Marine Corps Marathon together in October. I ran the Philadelphia Marathon in November as well as a few half marathons during the year. Happy to be able to compete and even better for being able to run with my wife for most of these events.

In May I ran my first unofficial ‘ultra-marathon‘ (any run longer than 26.2 miles is considered an ‘ultra’)¬†for the charity ‘Give Kids The World‘. I ran 39.3 miles in one day (the equivalent of the Goofy Challenge – a half marathon followed by a full marathon but all in one day). This charity is supported my my running team, the Mickey Milers and through this event I was able to raise $1,250 for this cause.

This was also the year I ventured into triathlons. I attempted (weather shortened) my first triathlon back at the New Jersey State Triathlon back in July. I was able to finally complete my goal of a sprint triathlon at Medford Lakes, NJ and then added a final sprint event before the end of my triathlon season in Hightstown, NJ so I could concentrate on my Fall marathon schedule.

It was a year of accomplishments for me and I’m grateful I was able to complete these events and remain relatively injury free.

2016 – Looking Forward

While my running schedule isn’t set for the full year, I am signed up for a couple of big events. First, my wife and I are signed up to run the New Jersey Marathon on May 1st. I’ve run this event twice before and this is still my marathon PR race. We also entered ourselves for the New York City Marathon in November. We will not find out about whether we get in until March so I’m looking at other races in the Fall just in case although I haven’t committed to any yet. Of course, I will be signing up for the Philadelphia Marathon as long as I am around that time of year.

The big event for me this year is that I will be participating in my very first Half Iron distance triathlon (70.3 miles) in Kingston NY in July. This is quite a step up from the sprint triathlons I did in 2015. I hope to be in good shape and ready when the time comes. Looking forward to it very much.

My other goal this year is to work on speed (and stay injury free). I’m looking for a fairly local goal race in the Fall (maybe before New York if we get in) to see if I can get to that 3:45 marathon time goal I seek. We shall see.

Thank you for sticking with me for the last few years as I have been writing this blog. I hope that I have lots of good stories to share in 2016 (and beyond).

Wishing you all success in all your endeavors this year. Happy New Year.

 

2015 New Jersey State Triathlon – Recap (not race recap…)

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I have to start off by saying that this is a tough post to write, not because of my performance on the day but because despite all my training and all my preparation for this event it was not the outcome I had planned.

I was coming to the end of the bike portion of the race when I was called off my bike by a volunteer about half a mile from the transition to tell me that due to a report of a lightning strike on the course, the race was cancelled for the safety of the competitors.

The race directors posted a statement later which read in part:

“As disappointing as that is, we would much rather explain to you why we took such action then having to explain to the family of an injured athlete why we didn’t.

You cannot argue with that.

I would still like to record on this blog my experience leading up to, during and after this event so I can share the good and the bad as well as the surprises and the lessons learned for the weekend. Here goes…

Back in October last year I signed up for the New Jersey State Triathlon. This was to be my first triathlon. I originally signed up for the Olympic distance (1,500 meter swim/23 mile bike/6.2 mile run) but having not worked as hard in the pool as I really needed to I decided to pull back to the Sprint distance (500 meter swim/11.5 mile bike/3.1 mile run) so I knew I would be able to finish. It was the swim leg that really had me worried. I was confident about the bike and run sections having done three duathlons in the last few years.

After having joined a swim club¬†back in October but going pretty rarely due to business travel and the access to the pool over the winter being limited I joined up with a pool closer to my house and committed to going 2 to 3 times a week and swimming. I kept up that commitment and have logged a number of long (for me) swim sessions over the last 2 months to give me the confidence that a) I wouldn’t drown, and b) I had enough in me to complete the Sprint distance.

I had joined the Bucks Country Triathlon Club for information and tips back in October and ordered my club tri-suit back in February. I picked it up in early May and it was snug but I guess it was supposed to be so it wouldn’t drag in the water. Tri-suits do not require any form of modesty whatsoever. It did fit a little more snug following our recent trip to the UK and the enormous quantities of chocolate I consumed over there…but it was worth it ūüôā

The day before the race arrived and I left work a little early to head over to Mercer County Park for packet pickup. The race was being put on by CGI Racing which have put on a couple of other races I have participated in over the last couple of years, namely the LOVE Run Half Marathon and the Rutgers UNITE Half Marathon, both of which were very well run.

The packet pick up area

The packet pick up area

Tomorrow's finish line

Tomorrow’s finish line

My goal when I got to the park was to pick up my race packet, ask a couple of questions that I had and then look at any expo they had (never having been to a triathlon expo). Packet pickup was in an open field by the transition area as was the expo. It didn’t take too long to pick up the packet and then the race shirt. I then went over to the information table to ask my couple of questions. A volunteer¬†recommended I walk the transition area to get familiar with the swim entry/exit before the race. I hadn’t thought about that but it was a great idea. It also helped calm my nerves a little to see what I would be getting myself in for.

Packet pick up was smooth

Packet pick up was smooth

There was an information booth and an area to look up your bib number if you didn't have it with you

There was an information booth and an area to look up your bib number if you didn’t have it with you.

The expo was a few tents surrounding the packet pick up

The expo was a few tents surrounding the packet pick up. It was small with a few vendors.

Once I had my packet and shirt and the volunteer had walked me through all the items in my race packet (including the ankle bracelet for the chip) I walked around in the order of the next day’s events. The swim, the bike and then the run.

I walked down to the lake to see the entry point and the exit as well as to look out over the water along the course. The first thing that struck me was that I wasn’t too intimidated by the course. I wasn’t really sure in my mind how I would have pictured the swim as I’d only seen an Ironman competition on TV and not anything shorter and having only done lap swimming and no open water swimming before I didn’t really have a sense of the length.

Swim entry point

Swim entry point

Swim course outlined by buoys

Swim course outlined by buoys

Swim entry view

Swim entry view

A panorama of the whole course from start (on right) to finish (on left).

A panorama of the whole course from start (on right) to finish (on left)

The exit of the swim

The exit of the swim

The transition area from the swim to the bike

The transition area from the swim to the bike

As I was walking along the lake I came across this sign…

Yes...that will calm my nerves!!!

Yes…that will calm my nerves!!!

So on entry to the transition area I went over to see where my bike would be set up the next day and to look for where I would be going both out and then in once I was transitioning.

Racks and racks all set up

Racks and racks all set up

My designated spot for the race

My designated spot for the race

Worth checking where to head in advance so you don't panic on the day.

Worth checking where to head in advance so you don’t panic on the day.

Walk up the chute out onto the road with the bike.

Walk up the chute out onto the road with the bike. This was both the out/in route for the bike portion.

The start to the last part of the triathlon

The start to the last part of the triathlon

The finishing chute

The finishing chute

Having walked through the area I took a look at the VIP area as the Bucks County Triathlon Club had a team tent set up for the weekend.

VIP area

VIP area

Tent placed ready for the weekend.

Tent placed ready for the weekend

Benefits of being part of a triathlon club

Benefits of being part of a triathlon club – private port-a-potty

So with the packet picked up and the walk through completed I headed off to join the family for the evening. We were getting together by the pool to chill out with the boys for the evening. I was beginning to get a little antsy so I left early to start to get my gear ready for the next day.

I needed to get my bike off the bike trainer and oil the chain and pump the tires. All was going well until….ssssssssss…what? What’s going on? sssssssss….

Yup, my rear wheel tube had split at the valve. I have to admit that at 9:30pm the night before my first triathlon and having never changed a tire on a bike in my entire life I was a little freaked!!!!

A few messages to biking friends and a post or two on Facebook groups guided me to YouTube. I must have watched the ‘How to change a tire’ video about a dozen times. Ultimately…and messily I changed my tire tube. Luckily I had a spare. When I bought my bike they threw one into my gear bag. Never thought I’d use it though!!!

Eek!!!

Eek!!!

What????

What????

Done!!!

Done!!!

Ugh...

Ugh…

Ultimately I got through this little last minute emergency and packed my bag ready for the next day.

Finally ready for the big day.

Finally ready for the big day. I bet no one else has a transition bag this cool!!!

I didn’t get much sleep that night. Between the adrenaline rush of the bike incident and the thought of the swim and how I would handle the transition my mind was racing. I got about 4.5 hours of sleep.

Race Day

I got up around 4:15am with the goal of leaving home around 5-5:15am as it was a 30 minute drive to get to the race. I was a little tired but excited. I had all my gear laid out the night before and I had my Powerbar and some water ready for when I was getting dressed. I had left random notes all over the house to remember my Garmin, to remember my water bottles in the refrigerator, etc.

Packing the car and racking my bicycle in the dark was an interesting experience. Nevertheless I was all packed up and ready to go. I headed out to the race area. By the time I got to Mercer County Park there were plenty of people there. I parked next to a lady who looked like she was an experienced triathlete. I nervously made small talk as we unpacked our cars and then made my way over to the transition area where volunteers were marking up everyone with their race numbers (number on each arm and age on one calf).

D-Day. Triathlon or bust.

D-Day. Triathlon or bust.

It was tight at the transition area as my neighbor seemed to have a lot of gear (well…a lot of space) and luckily I was at the end of the rack so I had a little extra space at the end to play with. I set up my gear and looked around at all the people there. I heard them announced the water temperature and they announced it was not wetsuit legal. I had looked this up in advance and this time of year was typically very warm so I had not rented a wetsuit for this race. Glad I hadn’t spent the money at that moment.

Setting up my gear

Setting up my gear

Pretty much ready to go

Pretty much ready to go

Craaaazy busy

Craaaazy busy

Craaaazy busy

Craaaazy busy

I made my way over to the port-a-potty’s and waited in line. The lines were not long but didn’t move fast. I figured it takes people so much extra time to get in and out of these tri-suits!!!

One last check of my transition area

One last check of my transition area

After the bathroom stop I made my way over to the transition area for one final run through of my gear, picked up my swim cap and goggles and made my way to the swim start area. I don’t have photos from here as my phone was in the transition area, my phone isn’t waterproof and my tri-suit doesn’t have any pockets. Ha. I guess I should get myself a GoPro ūüėČ

I saw that people were being directed around the side of the boat house where they were allowed to do a practice swim. I hadn’t planned on it or given it any thought but I saw so many people going over there and it was almost an hour until my swim group went off that I decided to give it a try. After all this would be my first open water swim.

As I was walking down the ramp into the water I bumped into a colleague from work. We were both doing our first triathlon so it was nice to meet someone probably as anxious as me.

I took my first steps (it was rocky) into the water and although I didn’t follow the whole practice course I swam for about 5 minutes out and back. Wow. You cannot see anything in the water!!! At least I now how an idea of what to expect for the real deal within the next hour.

After exiting the water I bumped into a fellow Bucks County Tri-Club member and we chatted a little until I reconnected with my colleague. We hung out as the first few waves went off and he left about 10 minutes ahead of me and joined his wave.

The swim started in the water so there was none of that mad dash into the water. That was good for me as I was worried about that at the start. I only pictured what I had seen on TV and those usually are the beach starts when everyone runs in at the same time. By starting in the water I could make sure I had enough space around me when I started swimming.

Swim course

Swim course

I was given some advice before the swim which essentially was to wait for the gun (or the word to go), let the fast people go, count to ten then pick a spot and take my time going out. That would leave me a little behind everyone but out of the way of the main body of swimmers.

Eventually my wave was called to the start. As we watched the previous wave go off everyone took their place and we went into the water. The temperature was comfortable and I felt remarkably relaxed at this point. I wasn’t racing anyone but just wanted to complete the swim without any major issues. I had plenty of space around me although I did line up towards the rear. Eventually our wave was released and we were off.

Within the first 100 meters I was just focusing on staying calm and moving forward as I normally would with regular bilateral breathing every 3 strokes. At one point however I came awfully close with a fellow swimmer and almost took a mouthful of lake water. Yuk! As started to cough a little and one of the race supervisors on a nearby kayak asked if I was okay. I gave him a thumbs up and then continued on my way. Next thing I know I’m being yelled at to go left by another person in a kayak and as I looked up I was veering almost off the course. After a couple of course corrections I eventually figured out how best to keep sighting while swimming and I made it around the first turn.

I could hear another wave behind me be released as I was swimming. A little while after I made the second turn and headed in I was passed by the leader of the wave. I was swimming pretty steadily (mostly freestyle) and pretty much keeping a pace along with a bunch of other competitors and so I thought I was doing okay.

As I saw the exit approaching I focused on my form and made a beeline for the exit of the swim. As I made it to the shallow water I tried to stand up only to feel a little dizzy as I got upright. Luckily there was a volunteer in the water to catch me and hold my arm for a few moments until I could get my footing. As soon as I was steady I made my way up the exit ramp and headed out towards the transition area.

My one and only professional shot from the day - Exiting the swim

My one and only professional shot from the day – Exiting the swim. Proof I¬†didn’t drown.

I got into the transition area and made it to my bike. I had read a few tips about bringing extra bottles of water to wash sand/grass/dirt off your feet and this was a really good tip. I dried my feet and put on some talc to help put on my Injini socks (not the easiest to put on in a rush), grabbed my bike shoes and helmet and made my way out of the transition area. Once we exited the grass area the volunteers told us to mount the bike after we crossed the red line which was the start of the bike course.

Bike course

Bike course

As I set off on my bike the sky was getting really dark. They had mentioned that there was a chance of rain towards the end of the race so I was hoping it would hold off while on the bike. I don’t mind running in the rain (although not when it was like the LOVE Run Half Marathon type of rain LOL).

I started off steadily and used the first mile to get down some water and a Gu gel packet. As I was progressing through mile 2 the rain started. Gently at first but by mile 3-4 it was steady and beginning to get harder. By mile 5 the rain was beating down hard and stinging my exposed skin. I started to see flashes of lightning and felt a little concerned about being out in a storm. I keep moving along (a decent pace for my hybrid bike) and despite the rain and the puddles was maintaining a consistent pace. I was however getting wet. Very wet. I could feel my socks squelching in my bike shoes and my bike helmet was not keeping my head dry from the elements.

Interestingly there were a number of cars on the course as we were riding and some were not very considerate to the cyclists. There police were doing a great job at the road junctions but it was still a little hairy given the conditions at the moment.

The rain was a downpour as I was approaching the last third of the bike route but I hadn’t seen any notification from the course volunteers and I hadn’t heard any siren or anything at this point.

As I approached mile 10 the rain seemed to lighten up and I made my way back into the park. I was hoping that my shoes that I had left in the transition weren’t soaked but luckily I had another pair of shoes and a dry pair of socks in my bag (which hopefully wasn’t soaked itself).

As I made my way to the transition area all of a sudden I started to see a whole bunch of folks walking on the side of the road ahead of me. I saw a few wearing medals so I just assumed these were the folks who had finished much faster than my wave. But then I heard a volunteer telling us to slow down and get off our bikes. At this point I was at mile 10.9 of the 11.5 mile route. They told us that the race had been cancelled due to lightning. I was stunned. I wasn’t exactly sure what to do at that point. I got off my bike and started walking back to the transition area in a daze.

As I walked my bike in I heard a member of the race organizing team shouting at everyone to get away from trees, metal and bikes as there was lightning in the area. They told us the transition area was closed and if we should go and sit in our cars until the storm had passed. As my keys were in the transition area I asked if I could get them and they said yes if I hurried.

I saw a bunch of folks standing under the Bucks Country Tri Club tent and so I quickly ran up and left my bike there and then ran to the transition to grab my gear. Yes it was soaked. I quickly dashed back to stand under the tent with everyone else. I was totally at a loss for words. I felt I was doing great and I was so happy to have completed the swim but I just felt that I had had the stuffing knocked out of me.

I was very disappointed. But not mad. What could I do?

We waited under the tent until the storm passed. I wasn’t quite sure what to do. I noticed while I was standing under the tent that I had damaged my front brake…needless to say that was part of my tire changing experience from the night before so I decided to say goodbye¬†to everyone and head over to my local bicycle store (Guy’s Bicycles) and have it checked out.

As I was driving home I called my wife and told her how upset I was. She said it had been very dark but it had never rained at home. In fact the sun was out. I asked her if it would be alright if I went for a short run when I got home so I could get my mind clear and plan my next move and she was okay with that. She was disappointed for me too.

I was still dressed in my wet tri suit as I dropped off my bike but the sun was now shining again and so I quickly went home, changed my shoes and grabbed a hand-held water bottle as it was very hot by now and just went out and ran my 5K. That was pretty much all I had left to do to finish the triathlon.

I must have looked a little silly running through the local park in a skin-tight suit all marked up with permanent marker on my arms and leg but I didn’t care. I was out and I was finishing my race¬†my way.

Feeling determined after my 5K

Feeling determined after my 5K

I took a long hot shower and hung my gear out to dry, stuffed my wet shoes with newspaper and came back to reality. I uploaded all my data after I’d had a chance to eat and relax and few hours to remove myself from the events of earlier in the day.

Overall I cannot be that disappointed. I didn’t quit, I didn’t DNF the race, the elements were out of my control. I was really pleased and proud to have completed the swim and the swim to bike transition. I learned a few lessons during that and also take away confidence that I can do this.

Looking at my stats I did a triathlon on the day. I just did it my way and didn’t give up despite the situation. It would have been too easy to be down about the experience but by getting myself out for that 5K it turned a bad situation around and I know now that I can do this.

My triathlon - my way

My triathlon – my way

My goal for next year is to return to the New Jersey State Triathlon and do the Olympic distance as I had originally intended for this year. I am confident that I will do this now. I have committed to my swim training and will only get stronger and have more endurance in a years time.

My next move was to find a local triathlon in the next few weeks to achieve my goal of completing a triathlon this season. I don’t want to wait another year. I took ¬†a look around and settled on the Medford Lakes Colony Sprint Triathlon on Sunday August 23rd. By the end of next month I will be a triathlete.

As a follow-up, the race organizers wrote to everyone and said “A decision will be made in the next few weeks on what will be offered to our Sprint athletes please be patient as we must first do our post race due diligence.” I will wait patiently.

They also offered to send finisher medals to Sprint participants. I was not sure what to do. I usually display my race medals but I didn’t get a chance to finish this one. My wife says that after all the training and in completing the distance on the day I should take it but I don’t feel like I would want to display it. So what I have decided to do is to accept the medal, not display it but put it on the side with the goal of replacing it with the real deal in 2016. That will be my motivator. Once I have my 2016 New Jersey State Triathlon finisher medal I will donate the 2015 medal to ‘Medals 4¬†Mettle‘.

That is my silver lining and my motivation for next years event.

Thank you for reading.

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 Рif 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.