2015 Pittsburgh Marathon – Race recap

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

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

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

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

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

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

We have arrived at the expo

We have arrived at the Expo

Ready for the expo

Ready for the Expo

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Once inside we headed up to the Health and Fitness Expo

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Up these cool stairs to the Expo

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

We are here

We are here – Game On Pittsburgh

Bib pickup

Bib pickup

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

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

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

The little half of the cheer squad

The little half of the cheer squad

The big half of the cheer squad

The big half of the cheer squad

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

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

Here it is. Tomorrow's reward

Here it is. Tomorrow’s reward

Wall of entrants

Wall of entrants

Hey, I know these people

Hey, I know these people

Bridge photo op!!!

Bridge photo op!!!

Official merchandise section

Official merchandise section

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Raising our kids right

Raising our kids right. Cookies before bedtime.

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

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

Ready for the big day

Ready for the big day

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

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

One of us was more awake than the other

One of us was more awake than the other

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

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

Yes, they even had a security guard at the table

Yes, they even had a security guard at the table

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

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

Keeping toasty in our mylar

Keeping toasty in our mylar

Corrals were set up within city blocks

Corrals were set up within city blocks

Approaching the start line. Almost showtime.

Approaching the start line. Almost showtime.

Okay....SHOWTIME!!!

Okay….SHOWTIME!!!

And we were off

And we were off

Enjoying the sights and sounds of the City

Enjoying the sights and sounds of the City

Pittsburgh Marathon course map

Pittsburgh Marathon course map

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

Bridge #1 - Rachel Carson Bridge

Bridge #1 – 16th Street Bridge

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

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

Bridge #2 - Rachel Carson Bridge

Bridge #2 – Rachel Carson Bridge

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

…and of course, the ‘jump shot’

I'm assuming we are crossing this one next!

I’m assuming we are crossing this one next!

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

Bridge #3 - Andy Warhol Bridge

Bridge #3 – Andy Warhol Bridge

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I was getting used to this view.

I was getting used to this view.

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

At the 'Incline'

At the ‘Duquesne Incline’

Go Pitt!

Go Pitt!

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

Bridge #5 - Birmingham Bridge

Bridge #5 – Birmingham Bridge

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

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

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

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

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

She was so happy to be back on Campus

She was so happy to be back on Campus

So of course there had to be another jump shot

So of course there had to be another jump shot

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

With the Pittsburgh Panther

With the Pittsburgh Panther

Outside the Cathedral of Learning

Outside the Cathedral of Learning

Outside the Cathedral of Learning

Outside the Cathedral of Learning

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

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

Crowds came out to cheer on runners

Crowds came out to cheer on runners

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

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

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

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

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

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

We made it!

We made it!

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

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

Yeah...Marathon #5 in the books

Yeah…Marathon #5 in the books

...and Marathon #12 for me.

…and Marathon #12 for me.

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

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Don’t forget the cookies…

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And that's why we run!!!

And that’s why we run!!!

Runners of Steel

Runners of Steel

5, yes 5!

Marathon #5, yes 5!

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Pleased with our day

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

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

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

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

First stop, Station Square.

First stop, Station Square.

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

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The Duquesne Incline

 

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View from the bottom looking up

Asher was a little uncertain

Asher was a little uncertain

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

View from the observation deck at the top.

View from the observation deck at the top.

We ran this town

We ran this town

My favorite running buddy

My favorite running buddy

Time to follow directions

Time to follow directions

It was earned and it was good

It was earned and it was good

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

The future students outside the Cathedral of Learning

The future students outside the Cathedral of Learning

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

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

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

I think I did enough for my ice cream.

I think I did enough for my ice cream.

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

We caught up a little on sleep

We caught up a little on sleep

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

Outside the basketball arena

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

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

🙂

It’s been a fun and rewarding journey…and I haven’t finished yet

A few months ago my Wife told me about an application for the iPhone called ‘Timehop’ which describes itself as follows:

A time capsule of you. See your photos and updates from this exact day in history. Timehop helps you celebrate the best moments of the past with your friends!

Or as some folks probably would say it shows how much time you may have wasted on social media over the last 4+ years (LOL).

For me though it provides a window and a reminder of some of the things I did with my kids when they were little (they are still only 7 and 4 but time flies for sure). Today’s ‘Timehop’, however, was a big ‘Wow’ moment for me. In the feed today it had the photo shown below.

Timehope 2010

This is me back in June 2010 at Sesame Place with my youngest who was about 5 weeks old.

Also in the feed were a few more photos (which for personal reasons I will not be re-sharing) showing me playing in the water with my eldest son and wearing a heavy cotton shirt despite the sweltering temperatures on that day. Why is it a ‘Wow’ moment? It is this picture that  which prompted me to change my habits and start to get healthy. I got my first iPhone around this time and started using the LoseIt app. Shortly after this and I began running a few weeks later using a Couch to 5K app. My life over the last 4 years has transformed.

You can see from this blog as a whole how much I seem to enjoy life and not just running but family and other activities we do together and with friends old and new. It is amazing how I had been a yoyo dieter and an exercise quitter for many years over and over again. Something about this picture of me holding my newborn son changed everything…for the better.

Running the 2014 Dopey Challenge at Walt Disney World

Running the 2014 Dopey Challenge at Walt Disney World

I’m very proud of how far I’ve come on this journey and what I have achieved. I didn’t do it alone and I cannot tell you how much I appreciate the support, especially from my Wife who has joined me on this journey. I never knew what I was capable of and I am still tapping into that potential but along the way I have had the most amazing time. I’ve also been able to use my new passion for good and have to date raised over $8,000 running events for Autism Speaks. None of this would ever have been possible had it not been for my reaction to that photo. Thank you Timehop for showing me how far I have come.

2013 San Francisco Half Marathon

2013 San Francisco Half Marathon

Thank you for sharing this adventure with me. Long may it continue.

Not why, but ‘how’ I run

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Over the last three plus years since I began running many people have asked me why I run. We all have our reasons how we began and why we continue to do so and I am only to happy to share my story with them. But very often people ask me questions like:

  • Don’t your knees hurt running all the time?
  • I don’t know how you have the energy to do it?
  • How can you run that long and not be bored?

These are generally accompanied by statements like:

  • I’m not in shape, I could never do that!
  • I have (insert problem) so I wouldn’t be able do what you do!
  • I wouldn’t last even a mile running!
  • I would get bored after ‘X’ miles/minutes!

Here I am going to share the ‘HOW’ and see if these questions and comments can be answered. Here goes…

1. Set attainable goals 

I never thought that when I started the Couch to 5K program that I would ever be a marathon runner? I didn’t. But I set myself a goal. Finish the 5K program. This program took me from being a non-runner to being able to complete a 5K (3.1 miles) in 9 weeks. It was hard. I had shin splints, I had a hard time with stairs for a while. I had to repeat week 5 at least twice. I struggled. But you know what? I finished. I was amazed I went from nothing to running a 5K. I had started a new habit of running 2-3 times a week and built on my progress from there. Now I run 5 days a week.

2. Get fitted for shoes at a proper running store

Once I had run up to 3.1 miles it was time to get some real runner’s equipment. Shoes. I went to a local running store where I had my running gait analyzed by an experienced runner. Don’t concern yourself with looks and colors. Take their advice. Be prepared to spend a bit…but not too much…to get a good fitting shoe that will serve your needs.

3. Find a race

As I completed my Couch to 5K program I started to look at what I wanted to do next. I set my sights on completing a local 5 mile race that the local running club holds every Thanksgiving. It wasn’t easy, I didn’t manage to run the whole way but I completed the race with a decent pace (for me at that time). At that point that was the longest distance I had ever run. I then targeted what was is one of the major running events near me, the Philadelphia Broad Street Run. As part of my training I started running more and more 5K races to get used to racing and also as a dress rehearsal for ‘big events’. I’ve built up my race experience with longer distances since then.

4. Celebrate the little successes

By Thanksgiving in 2010 I had finished my first race (the 5 miler) and had at that time lost around 20lbs. I headed for a family vacation in Florida and took all my new running gear with a goal of running 30 miles over the vacation. On my final day of vacation I ran 6 miles (my longest run to date at that time). I achieved that and made sure to reward myself. I hit up the Nike outlet for some goodies.

I’ve used this success and reward cycle to keep building myself up. These successes were running 3 times a week, running 4 times a week, running 8 miles, running 10 miles. I’ve always made sure to celebrate in some way however small. Now after every marathon I treat myself to a new pair of shoes (typically just a different color of the same model shoe) as this inspires me to get out there and keep training.

5. Take some chances

So having registered to run the 2011 Broad Street Run I continued to build on my mileage. As I had recently completed 10 miles in training my wife encouraged me to sign up for my first Half Marathon (the Bucks County Half Marathon). It was held in Tyler State Park where I now do most of my marathon training although it was new to me at that time. The week before the race I decided to take a trial run to see how I might do on the course. I printed of a map and started running. Unfortunately I had the map upside down but it taught me how hilly the park was!!! So with only a couple of weeks between signing up and running my first half marathon I felt great that I took that leap (or push) and took that chance. Now it gave me the confidence for Broad Street.

Every race distance I complete, every PR I earn now gives me the confidence to step up my game and toe the line for a new challenge.

6. Maintaining the motivation

Now what? I had completed a Half Marathon, I had run Broad Street, what was next on the plan? I hadn’t looked too far forward at this stage as I had still been running for less than a year. I set a new challenge. Break 2 hours for a Half Marathon. I set my sights on another local race, the 2011 Rock and Roll Philadelphia Half Marathon. This meant that I couldn’t slack off during the summer as I was still a newbie and needed to build up again to a half marathon distance. This is what got me out of the door after Broad Street.

Today I look to plan my race calendar for at least the next 6-12 months in advance so that I can plan my training, have set goals and keep myself committed.

7. Listen to your body

Early in my running as I was continuing my training and increasing my distance running I started to become more and more uncomfortable with my right knee and ultimately I went to see a doctor. I did not want to stop running but I was waking up in the middle of the night with discomfort and it was getting painful on my daily 110 mile round trip commute.

I was referred to a physical therapist who had me run on the treadmill and she analysed my problem. I was an over-pronator. Although I had stability shoes I needed additional support and was recommended for some shoe inserts (over the counter were sufficient for me). I visited the physical therapist for a 6 week period twice a week and performed a series of exercises to build up the stability muscles around my knees, to learn how to stretch and to focus on my running form. I was also recommended as part of this to get re-fitted for shoes which I did. I have been in Brooks Adrenaline shoes ever since. (Over time as my body has got stronger I have moved away from the need for the inserts and now run with shoes straight out of the box).

By the end of the 6 week treatment I was stronger, my knees were aligned and I had a new focus on my running form that would go on to be a go to mental technique I now incorporate towards the end of races when I am getting tired. I was a fitter and renewed runner. I’ve learned to listen to the aches and pains when they occur and know when to rest and back off. I’ve also come more accustomed to the training. Where I once would have hurt or struggled for a couple of days after a long run I know how to self treat post run for better recovery. A lot of this is just experience and building up your own endurance.

I also started reading about running and training methods. Through my research I came across Jeff Galloway and his ‘Run-Walk-Run’ method. Learning about the method and applying it in training and racing has enabled me to achieve goals that at the beginning of my journey seemed out of touch. His methods have also allowed me to stay pretty much injury free as it changes up the muscles I am using through the intervals and also has allowed me to recover quicker.

8. Set bigger goals

After these little successes I set my sights on a bigger challenge, completing my first marathon. I signed up with the Runner’s World Challenge to run the 2011 Philadelphia Marathon which provided me with a training plan, supporting community and a daily e-mail providing encouragement (plus a cool shirt and a book on road racing).

Training for a marathon is a life changing experience. Never did I think that setting the alarm for 3am, strapping on a headlamp and a reflective vest would be something I would do but you get to a point where your habit becomes your lifestyle and something just ‘clicks’ and you do it because you want to do it. To date I have done 8 marathons (including a couple of multi-day distance events at Walt Disney World).

9. Preventative care

It’s not just putting in the miles that makes be a better runner, I have to look after my body as that is my tool to achieve my goals. I had already started dieting to lose weight prior to starting running but to run distance you have to fuel right. It isn’t about cutting out calories for the most part I probably eat more than I used to these days but it is eating the right foods at the right time in the right quantities. It’s about keeping the metabolism going.

I definitely eat more healthily than I used to. I seldom eat fried food or red meat anymore, anytime I do I definitely feel a difference. I seldom drink alcohol these days although I will partake in moderation. I guess that is the word, ‘moderation’. I still have a very sweet tooth. I look to satisfy my cravings with healthier alternatives but I also don’t beat myself up if I indulge from time to time. I journal all my food in the LoseIt app. I’ve been using that every day for almost 4 years now. It keeps me focused and in check.

I also get regular chiropractic adjustments. I go every 3 to 4 weeks to visit Dr Bagnell who has seen me go from being unfit and overweight to 50lbs light with my current fitness levels and he has commented on how different and beneficial it has been to my overall health. It is like a regular tune up for my body. A little realignment goes a long way. I’m pounding pavement for hour after hour, then I sit at a desk all day and drive a car for at least 2.5 hours a day. If I didn’t get myself in alignment regularly I would just be creating problems for myself and lead to long-term injury as I tried to over compensate for any discomfort. Training pushes your body to the limits, but if you can maintain your engine then your body will be kind to you and your recovery will be faster.

10. Have fun

You may have noticed from some of my previous posts that I like to have fun when I run. One of the best things that resulted from me running is that I get to run races with my wife. We are a good team. We both have somewhat different training schedules but we do run events together. I guess I am lucky that my wife is also a keen runner (we started within months of each other) and we get to share experiences together, visit new places and have a unique opportunity to sight see when we travel, for example running through all four Disney Parks at Walt Disney World, running along Niagara Falls and running across the Golden Gate Bridge in San Francisco.

Running across the Golden Gate Bridge in San Francisco, CA

Running across the Golden Gate Bridge in San Francisco

Running also happened to allow me to be a big kid again. I think you may have been able to tell that I am a big Disney fan. Well running has allowed me some unique experiences (through runDisney) like running races in full costume It has also enabled me to raise over $8,000 (to date) for charity.

Running in EPCOT at the 2013 Disney Family 5K

Running in EPCOT at the 2013 Disney Family 5K

Running through EPCOT at the 2014 inaugural Walt Disney World 10K

Running through EPCOT at the 2014 inaugural Walt Disney World 10K

That’s how I got to be where I am and how I stay motivated. What do you do differently? Share your methods and motivations in the comments below.

Thank you for reading 🙂

2014 New Jersey Marathon recap

This post is a few days later than anticipated but I just completed marathon number 8, the 2014 Novo Nordisk New Jersey Marathon. This brought a little redemption from when I ran this race last year 🙂

2014 Novo Nordisk New Jersey Marathon

2014 Novo Nordisk New Jersey Marathon

I decided to run this race again this year for a couple of reasons. First, I wanted to see the course over it’s mostly original restored course a year after Hurricane Sandy and second, to earn the PR I had set myself as a goal last year before the wheels fell off. So having re-registered in December I set about training for this event straight after completing the inaugural 2014 Walt Disney World ‘Dopey Challenge’. Actually I was already a couple of weeks into the training program when I got back from Florida and so with 16 weeks to go I set about training for New Jersey.

In case you hadn’t noticed, this was a pretty harsh winter and I did most of my training (including long runs) on the treadmill. Thankfully I was able to run outdoors by the time the 20 milers rolled around. Coming into this event I had run three good races all below my marathon goal pace (9:00/per mile) and was feeling confident although a little apprehensive based upon last year.

The race director does a great job of keeping everyone informed of events and starting out 10 weeks before the day there were weekly updates on the New Jersey Marathon blog which were very helpful as the day approached. In addition, the organizers were very active on Facebook updating everyone on the activities going on and introducing the marathon pace teams to everyone. Communication was top class.

I headed to the expo on the Friday evening before the race as my office is very close by and I didn’t have time to come back the following day (I live about 60 miles from the expo/start line area). The race expo and the race start and staging area is at Monmouth Park in Oceanport, NJ. The expo is held inside the pavillion.

Arriving at the expo

Arriving at the expo

Entering the park

Entering the park

Arriving for packet pickup

Arriving for packet pickup

Packet pickup was very simple. I was picking up bibs and shirts also for two friends running the Long Branch Half Marathon (which started and finished along the full marathon course). The volunteers were very helpful and there were tables for bib pickup for each race and t-shirt pickup for each race. Shirts were offered in male and female sizes which I see more of these days rather than the unisex shirts that other races offer.

Bib pickup was simple

Bib pickup was simple

Shirt pickup was divided into male/female tables and also by events

Shirt pickup was divided into male and female tables and also by events

There was also a small section of race specific merchandise. I didn’t buy any of the official merchandise this year but there was a broad range of wear and accessories and all the designs were nice too.

New Jersey Marathon Merchandise Area

New Jersey Marathon Merchandise Area

The expo was small. There were a few vendors but they had a full speaker series scheduled during the expo on both Friday and Saturday. You don’t get that at many races. Also there was a chance to meet up with various members of the New Jersey Marathon pace teams. Each pace group had two runners assigned and they were there to answer questions. On my way out the door I passed the small ‘Skechers‘ table. They were beaming from ear to ear in the glow of Meb Keflezighi’s Boston Marathon win. I am sure they will be back next year with a larger table 🙂

Obligatory bib photo before leaving the expo

Obligatory bib photo before leaving the expo

On Saturday I had planned a full family day so they got a chance to watch me carb load on pancakes although to be fair I bought lunch for them too!!! After a couple of stops and a birthday party I finally said my goodbyes (leaving them at a local carnival) and hopped in my car for the drive to my hotel near the start line. I set up all my gear for the next day and ‘attempted’ to get an early night….yeah, like you can sleep the night before a marathon.

'Flat Ian' ready for the big day

‘Flat Ian’ ready for the big day

There was a fairly significant thunderstorm that evening so I’m glad I made it to my hotel just before the weather turned sour. It definitely cooled temperatures down. When I left the hotel the following morning my car had a layer of frost on the windshield. Great….I was dressed in shorts and a t-shirt. Luckily the weather forecast for the day looked good (if a bit breezy).

I set out fairly early for the race as I recalled from last year that the entrance to Monmouth Park is via local access roads. With the Half Marathon setting off at 6:45am (the Full Marathon set off at 8am) I knew that some of the local roads would be shut down for a while so I wanted to get there and parked before the start of the Half. Plenty of other people had the same idea but the traffic wasn’t too bad and I got there around 6.15am. The parking was well organized and they had folks working the parking lots to make sure it was all filled in an orderly manner. My Disney experience showed here as I took a picture of my parking lot location…more of that later.

Remember where we parked the car

Remember where we parked the car

The nice thing about the location is that runners get access to the pavillion early prior to the race. That means you have indoor bathrooms, somewhere to keep warm and a place to sit before having to head out to bag check. I made myself comfortable and relaxed.

Race morning inside the pavilion. Bustling with Half and Full Marathoners.

Race morning inside the pavilion. Bustling with Half and Full Marathoners.

Relaxing pre-race.

Relaxing pre-race.

I didn’t get a chance to catch up with my friends Beth and her brother Larry prior to the Half but I had planned on meeting a couple of other folks prior to the race. While sitting around in the pavillion I also bumped into a former colleague of mine (Marc) and met up with John Thompson from the ‘The Runner of a Certain Age‘ blog and podcast. I had planned to meet up with my wife’s former colleague from her time in London, Chris, but he wasn’t hanging out in the paviilion. I later found out he was staying nearby with family and didn’t plan on arriving too early as he didn’t need to.

With John and Marc

With John and Marc

Around 7:30 we bid each other good luck and headed towards the bag check. Being a point to point race we had to load our gear bags into a waiting truck if we wanted anything like a jacket or other items post race. I packed up my bag, put on my throw away shirt and headed for the corrals.

Ok...I'm ready

Ok…I’m ready

Just after entering the corral I bumped into Chris so I got the photo for my wife which I had been instructed to before the weekend and got ready for the start. I have said this before but I find it relaxing and takes away any nerves chatting with someone in the corral before the start of the race.

Meeting up with Chris.

Meeting up with Chris.

As we were starting at a race track the start to the race was quite unique…a bugle call. This was followed by a short burst of Bruce Springsteen’s ‘Born To Run’ (hey, this was the New Jersey Marathon after all) and off we went.

My goal for this year was the same as last year…you know, the one I blew last year 😦 I had been antsy ever since last year that I wanted to break 3:55 in a marathon and was training hard for this. Still it did give me a little nervousness going in knowing that I was trying to accomplish something I had not managed the year before. I did however feel more relaxed this year. I look back at how good and relaxed I felt running the Marathon on the last day of the Dopey Challenge this past January and how my recent 3 races had gone and felt I could do this.

The course at the start has quite a few turns as you go through the local towns then there is a long stretch out to Asbury Park where it gets all twisty again (seriously twisty) then the run back up the long straight and takes you to finish up on the boardwalk in Long Branch (see the map below).

2014 New Jersey Marathon Course Map

2014 New Jersey Marathon Course Map

Last year I know I went out too fast. I ran almost a PR on the first half of the course and then my heart rate elevated and I couldn’t bring it down. By mile 15 last year I started losing a minute per mile and finished the second half of the race 20 minutes slower than the first half. Not great and was very disappointing. This year I had vowed to be different.

Well…I ran a very aggressive first 10K at 8:34/mile pace without really planning on running that fast and then forced myself to back off a little. Still, I made the half way point at almost my half marathon PR 1:53 at 8:39 pace. As we approached the half way point we started running alongside some of the half marathoners and we also passed the marathon relay point. The split for the half marathon and the marathon was around mile 11. This then took the full marathoners down throught the long straight towards Asbury Park. I was constantly checking my heart rate the whole time during my walk breaks (I was using a 4:00/0:45 interval ratio). I was managing to keep my heart rate stable and was feeling good.

Feeling good on the early stages of the race

Feeling good on the early stages of the race

The weather was beautiful and sunny on the day and the crowd support around the towns was good. Not so much along the out and back portion as it was run through a very wealthy neighborhood and not many folks came out to cheer but those that did were appreciated. Going down towards the turnaround I felt good and was enjoying the course and the scenery. This was the part of the course that was changed from the previous year and I found it more enjoyable to run (less interrupting turns and a little wider). Once we hit Asbury Park there were lots of corners to turn before we hit the turnaround point around mile 18.5. Once we rounded that it was back up from where we had come.

You didn’t really notice the wind when we run downwind which we had down through mile 18.5. Once you hit the turnaround you hit the wind. The last 8 miles were effectively run heading into what felt at the time like a wind tunnel. Whew!!! This made the run back up towards Longport just that bit harder. On the return leg in Asbury Park we were able to run a little on the newly reconstructed boardwalk. This was a part of the course that was closed to us last year. Nice to see that the rebuilding of the Shore is ongoing and glad we got to run through part of the restoration.

I started to slow a little as the combination of running into the wind and getting into the last few miles of the marathon began to take its toll. After mile 22 I just had to buckle down and stick to my run/walk intervals. I figured if I could focus on just completing the run section without stopping I would make it to the end and maybe…just maybe I might meet my goal time. Plus there was the view of the beach to my right as I was running. What could be too bad.

I look like am under arrest from the fashion police for my 80s retro tube socks look

I look like I am under arrest from the fashion police for my 80’s retro tube socks look

Having inadvertantly hit my lap button while checking my heart rate early in the race I hadn’t noticed that my mile splits were slightly off the mileage posts on the course (I figured that out by mile 22). But I still had decent splits considering the wind resistance. Here are my splits.

My mile splits

My mile splits

As I rounded the final corner for the last 2 miles on the boardwalk in Long Branch I looked at my Garmin and new I was sub 4 hours but wasn’t sure if I would be sub 3:55. So now it was time to focus. All the weeks of training had to pay off now. I buckled down and focused on the finish line….which was hidden around a bend and took forever to appear. Nevertheless, I skipped that final walk interval and picked up my pace and headed for the finish line.

And…

Made it

Made it

The clock shows sub 4 but as I started in Corral C that morning the truth was on my Garmin.

I like what I see

I like what I see

Yup. I did it. I broke 3:55. My actual official time was 3:54:30.

Official result posted

Official result posted

Very happy at the finish line

Very happy at the finish line

Then I got to receive an awesome medal. Spinners are always cool but this medal in addition to being a spinner also had the towns we ran through shown on the back. Pretty cool commemorative medal. I let my star shine today just like the medal said.

Pretty cool medal

Pretty cool medal

At the finish line we received a bag from Panera Bread. I was quite excited as when we ran the San Francisco Half Marathon last June we received post run treats from Panera and they were yummy. This was a little disappointing. I know this is a much smaller race than San Francisco but in the bag was a breadstick (yeah…a breadstick) a banana and three pieces of salt water taffy. I have to admit I bought my own post race snacks. I have started doing that based upon my refuel needs. I bring along an Accel Recover bar and a Powerade. Just to have properly formulated fluids, carbs and protein.

Once I picked up my gear bag it was time to take the long walk back to the race buses which would take runners back to the parking at Monmouth Park. Just like last year, althought the walk was slow it was the best thing I needed at the time to keep me from stiffening up prior to my long car ride home. As I was taking the walk back I passed by the finish line festival. There was plenty for the kids to do and also some merchandise for sale.

The finish line festival

The finish line festival

I chatted with a couple of folks on the bus journey back to the start line and everyone seemed tired but in good spirits and happy with the day. I remember last year it felt the bus ride took forever but with a full complement of passengers and someone to talk to it passed relatively quickly.

Now, remember above I mentioned the parking? Well, I was parked at row 87. I have learned (unfortunately through experience at Disney races) to take a picture of where I parked the car so I can find it again. The bus dropped us off at row 1. That’s not too close to row 87. Sheesh…that was the toughest part of the day. Not too many folks walking with me by then so it was a loooooong sloooow walk back to the car. I did a good amount of stretching before I got in for the hour plus long journey home and actually felt pretty comfortable that I did.

I made one stop before I reached home to get my special post race treat. I hadn’t yet been to our local Rita’s this year so guess where I headed 🙂

A nice 'root beer' gelati

A nice ‘root beer’ gelati

A couple of days after the race (hence the delay in posting) I had to have some medical tests done which I had put off because of the marathon. As a consequence I was not allowed to take any anti-inflammatory meds for the next few days so it was time for a nice soak in an ice bath (brrrrrrr….) to help soothe out the tired muscles. Luckily no one was home so they couldn’t hear me talk like a sailor when I got in. However, it worked wonders and if you can ever do it post long run I recommend it. Just keep the kids out of earshot.

Waiting on the countdown to finish my ice bath

Waiting on the countdown to finish my ice bath

I had been in touch with John Thompson prior to the race and we had met up on the morning of the race. Subsequently he invited me onto the race recap episode of his podcast and we discussed our experiences together. I tend to talk alot (and write as much) so the episode was split into two parts. Here are parts one and two. Worth a listen. Also, here is the link to his blog and Facebook page. Thank you for the invite John.

So, I PR’d. I am very happy with my time and it felt great but looking back I’m not on the long lasting high I thought I would be. I was much more on a high finishing Goofy and Dopey and even when I completed the Disney Marathon in 2013 and Philadelphia Marathon in 2013 with my wife. PR’s are great but I think I get more out of the ‘fun’ of racing and the achievements than just times alone. Yes, I trainined hard and achieved my goal but in perspective I look back more fondly on the ‘experience’ than the time. I didn’t think that would always be the case. I’m kind of glad it is.

Anyway, would I recommend this race? Yes. Would I go and do it again? Maybe but only if I was running with my wife or a buddy. There are plenty of other races on my wish list and I have had two great experiences running here. I think it is one to consider at this time of the year and the race director and his team do a fantastic job of running this event. It’s a nice day at the beach.

Thank you for reading 🙂

2013 – Looking back and forward

Today marks the last day of 2013 and the first full year keeping this blog up to date. It has been a most enjoyable experience writing my recaps, my thoughts and communicating with folks from all over through the comments and on Facebook. Thank you for your support.

2013 was a very busy year running wise with approximately 1,744 miles run (and a few chasing my kids which didn’t get recorded).

2013 Summary - Nike+

2013 Summary – Nike+

I started this blog at the beginning of the year to recap on the Walt Disney World ‘Goofy’s Race and a Half Challenge’ and finished this year writing about my training for the 2014 Walt Disney World ‘Dopey Challenge’. That’s a great start and end to my year. You can read all my race recaps here. The year included 3 full marathons and 5 half marathons. Most of these I had the pleasure of running with my wife (she ran 2 full marathons and 5 half marathons). It wasn’t a big year for PR’s but I did squeeze a fast 10K run (fast for me) in the fall. Overall I just enjoyed running with family and friends and staying fit and healthy which is what counts the most. PR’s will come I have no doubt.

2013 took me running across the country to San Francisco where my wife and I celebrated our 10th anniversary by running the 2013 San Francisco Half Marathon. That was such a great trip. We ran everyday to sightsee and walked all over the City. A great place to visit.

So now I am planning for 2014 and some upcoming races. On the slate for now (confirmed and paid up) are:

January – Walt Disney World Dopey Challenge (4 race, 4 days, 48.6 miles)

March – The Love Run, Philadelphia (Half Marathon)

April – Hot Chocolate 15K (Philadelphia)

April – New Jersey Marathon

My wife and I also entered our names into the lottery for the 2014 New York City Marathon and we will find out if we get in around the end of March. We do have a couple of other races in the hopper should we not get in, but we will wait and see.

Distance running is individual sport (no one else can put the miles in for you) but there are ways to use it to good effect. Back in January I raised a total of $3,406 for Autism Speaks running the Goofy Challenge. In 2014 I will be running the Dopey Challenge again to raise funds for Autism Speaks and as at the time of writing I have raised a total of $3,555. I was also inspired by watching a friend guide a blind athlete during the Trenton Half Marathon to look into becoming a guide for future events. This week I ran with the local chapter of the Achilles Foundation and in doing so introduced myself to the group and hope to be involved in some capacity working with them to volunteer as a guide during some races in 2014. I look forward to the opportunity.

Again, I would like to thank you all for taking time over the year to read my posts and wish you all the very best for the New Year.

Thank you.

Ian

June 2013 – month in review

June 2013 – Nike+ Summary

June 2013 – Nike+ Summary

A couple of days late but I’m on vacation so that’s okay.

127 miles this month. A pretty light month in terms of activities. Just one race, the San Francisco Half Marathon, which my wife and I ran as part of our 10th anniversary trip. That was a great race. You can read my recap here.

2013 San Francisco Half Marathon

2013 San Francisco Half Marathon

Whilst on the trip to San Francisco I did my Dopey run. There is still chance to sign up for the race as it is open through July 31st or until all the spots have been filed. Head over to the event page or my Facebook page to see some of the great photos that participants have been submitted.

Dopey and me in San Francisco

Dopey and me in San Francisco

I’m on vacation this week and so I’m taking advantage of the time to run with my wife and my boys. The weather is cooler than last year (i.e. not great) but it’s perfect for running and biking. I’ll take a little rest after vacation as my training for the Philadelphia Marathon starts in mid-July. Once that starts it is all go all the way to the finish line of the Dopey Challenge next January.

I did sign up for a couple of races which will be new ones for me this fall. The Cooper Norcross Benjamin Franklin Bridge Run (a 10K crossing the Delaware River between Camden, NJ and Philadelphia, PA) and the Trenton Half Marathon (crossing the Delaware River between Trenton, NJ and Morrisville, PA). It sounds like I like to run bridges, but after running the Golden Gate Bridge who can blame me?

Running the Golden Gate Bridge

Running the Golden Gate Bridge

Have a happy 4th of July.

2013 San Francisco Half Marathon recap

2013 San Francisco Half Marathon

2013 San Francisco
Half Marathon

As I had previously mentioned in an earlier post my wife and I signed up for the San Francisco Half Marathon as part of our 10 year wedding anniversary getaway. Nothing says love more than 13.1 miles together starting at 5.30am.

We arrived in San Francisco early afternoon on Thursday (thank you US Airways and Mother Nature for our 3 hour delay) and once we were done checking into the hotel set out to explore the city. Now, when getting ready for a race the best thing is to get acclimatized (adjust to any differences in weather and time zones) and pretty much take it easy and stay off your feet before the race. Well, you don’t know our family. We don’t miss a beat. Always on the go and this was no exception.

We tried to start our trip off like typical tourists and explored the city. We jumped on a cable car which would take us up the streets and end at Fisherman’s Wharf. FAIL…the cable car broke down (lost hold of the cable) about 2 blocks after we started. They have a no refund policy and rather than wait to start all over again on another trolley we started what would be a pattern for us for the whole visit. We walked. Did I mention that San Francisco is quite hilly? Really? I hadn’t mentioned it yet? We very quickly discovered why people take trolleys…the hills are kind of steep. Not to be too disheartened we joked that thank goodness we run marathons or we wouldn’t have been fit enough to make it to the top of the streets.

We continued much in this vain throughout the weekend. Walking up and down hills including the climb up to Coit Tower. Quite a few steps in addition to the hills. By Saturday lunchtime we had to find a place to sit down for a break as walking down the hills had left our legs a little shaky…and we had a half marathon in just over 12 hours.

As I mentioned in my previous post we ran every day where were there too. What a great way to get out and explore a city. So yup, we were being really sensible just before running a half marathon. We had run the 2 days prior to race day just under 11 miles and had walked even further. Throw in some massive crazy hills and towers and we were text-book how not to behave before a race. Go us!!!

Okay, back to the race. After we toured Alcatraz on Friday (yes hills and stairs not to mention sea legs) we walked along the Embarcadero to the Concourse Exhibition Center for the Expo. Another genius move by me was to look at the map and say it looks walkable, not too far. Umm, try just under 4 miles and we had already run 5 miles and been on our feet all day. This is beginning to sound like how we do a runDisney weekend…my wife’s motto is “No Sleep Until Philly”. So we walked and walked (again, just a few hilly bits to conquer).

The Expo itself was nice, fairly low-key and not too big. I was surprised that being such a big city and a key event that there were not too many national vendors. I don’t recall seeing some of my favorite vendors like ‘One More Mile’ or ‘runDisney’ or major manufacturers like Garmin, Brooks and others. Overall, and my wife agreed, this seemed a very low-key event. In fact when we were talking with locals in the shops and restaurants and most of them seemed completely unaware there was a marathon going on over the weekend. The Embarcadero was decked out in flags for next month’s America’s Cup event and there were just a few marathon flags around the start line at the junction of the Embarcadero and Mission Street. Typically you see the signs of setting up, for example tents and port-a-potties but we didn’t see any en route to the Expo. In fact we changed our Saturday run plans to see if we could even see the start line (we didn’t). I’ll touch upon that later when I share the details of the race organization.

Having been on our feet most of the day we made up for our energy spent walking by pretty much eating all the samples they were giving out at the Expo. Well, when in Rome…The official race store was nice and both my wife and I grabbed a couple of tops. Lucky for us as San Francisco was colder than we anticipated and we found ourselves wearing our new gear over the next couple of days. The packet pickup process was pretty easy but the shirts were tiny. Everyone seemed to have to move up a size or two. I ended up with an XL shirt and my wife moved up to an S. People were saying that the shirts were too tight and one lady I spoke with said she couldn’t get here head through the top (it wasn’t that bad and I cannot recall her having a giant head!) Anyway, the shirts were nice long sleeved and looked cool. The Half Marathon was teal with yellow detail and the Full Marathon was the reverse. They both looked nice. We both got a race bag which was to be the only bag allowed to bring into the starting area for security reasons and there was a place to write down our bib numbers on the bag. I actually think this was a great idea as I always worry about just attaching a paper tag with a safety-pin to my bag which is identical to everyone elses. Nice touch.

We didn’t spend too much at the Expo but I bought a cool shirt that will remind me of the weekend and I will be wearing that as I run along the New Jersey Boardwalk this summer as it looks pretty cool. Finally on our way out of the Expo we got to see the finisher medal (which was the same for both the first Half Marathon and second Half Marathon) and were pretty pleased with the size despite it being smaller than the Full Marathon (for obvious reasons). We are pretty much spoiled with our runDisney bling and it has caused us to have high standards 🙂

My Expo purchase

My Expo purchase

Skipping forward to race day (Sunday 16th) we got up around 3:45am as they had asked everyone to get there 30 minutes early for extra security procedures. We also had decided to walk to the start line which was about 1 mile from the hotel. We were in good company as we seemed to be on the streets with lots of other runners (the hotel lobby was a popular meeting place I guess) and a few people were actually running to the start line as there warm up. The weather was a nice temperature. I had been worried that it would be cold by the Bay as previous years race recaps had mentioned the wind chill and cool temperatures and I was certain we would be cold up on the bridge. Last year the bridge was all covered in low cloud and certainly looked cold and that was in July, a full month later than this year’s race. Both my wife and I were dressed in t-shirts with a half zip top. I as usual was wearing my thin gloves.

Security was pretty smooth, just checking our pretty empty bag. Shari brought her mylar wrap from the 2012 Philly Half Marathon to keep her warm at the start and we lined up for the port-a-potties and headed to the corral with no problems. The Full Marathoners went off in Waves 1-3 and we were in the first Half Marathon wave in Wave 4.

Greetings from Corral 4

Greetings from Wave 4

We went off smoothly and the first thing I noticed which brought a smile to my face was that we were running alongside palm trees (although planted in the middle of the road) and I just thought, hey, this is California. It’s a nice day for a race. The sky was as crystal clear as you could get. No clouds anywhere which was very much a surprise.

Greetings from Corral 4

Yup, we are in California

As we rounded the Embarcadero, past Fisherman’s Wharf and onto the Marina we got our first glimpse (thanks to the clear sky) of the Golden Gate Bridge off in the distance. It was still about 3-4 miles away but clear to the eye. We continued on past the Marina, Fort Mason and Crissy Field and made our way up towards the entrance to the Bridge. One thing my wife and I noticed was the distinct lack of water stations and restrooms along the route. My wife pointed out that a lot of people (more than typical) seemed to be carrying water/hydration belts. They obviously knew better than we did. When we did get to the water stations the paper cups were very small, bigger than shot glasses but not much. We found ourselves grabbing two at a time when we saw a water stop. However, this did not stop us from enjoying ourselves.

A beautiful clear morning

A beautiful clear morning

Heading through Fort Mason

Heading through Fort Mason

Did someone say 'hill'?

Did someone say ‘hill’?

At this point I should mention that this is the first long race where I did not use the Jeff Galloway method. I have been running progressively further without talking walk breaks just to see how I would fare. While we did walk through water stations and stop for pictures I pretty much ran the whole race. I’m sure I will be doing some form of run/walk for the Dopey Challenge next January it was good to see that I was able to keep motoring on without harm.

Once we hit the Bridge it was photos galore for my wife and I. It was a mixture of great weather, great views and great company but I was pretty giddy like a school boy up on the Bridge. I was running along holding my iPhone up in the air taking photos as I ran, taking photos of my wife and I and some running selfies. I just had a smile on my face from ear to ear. It was fantastic. I had grown up with images of the Golden Gate Bridge in my house growing up (my parents had visited San Francisco in 1979 and had framed photos of the skyline around our house) but here I was actually seeing the Bridge AND running it. My wife was also enjoying her self. We took plenty of photos of her jumping in the air (great for the knees mid race).

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Clear blue skies

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A nice place for us to run

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Me

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The little lady

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Happy to be here

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Getting good at taking ‘Selfies’ while running

We finished the first span of the Bridge and arrived at the vista point on the Marin County side where we stopped to take in the view and take some pictures with the Bridge as our backdrop. At this point in the race we bumped into our friend Mayela who was running the Full Marathon with her friend Yasmin (her first Full Marathon). Small world for sure. I kind of had a feeling we would bump into her. It’s what we do 🙂 Anyway, we took photos together and they headed off and we got down to some seriously cheesy photo opps like only we can do 🙂

Yasmin, Mayela and Shari

Yasmin, Mayela and Shari

Cheesy photo 1 -  The Couple's Jump Shot

Cheesy Photo 1 –
The Couple’s Jump Shot

Cheesy Photo 2 -  The 'Solo' Jump

Cheesy Photo 2 –
The ‘Solo’ Jump

Cheesy Photo 3 - The 'Balance Beam' pose

Cheesy Photo 3 –
The ‘Balance Beam’ pose

We grabbed a gel, some electrolyte drink and some water and headed back over the Bridge. We soon caught up with Mayela and Yasmin and ran the rest of the length of the Bridge with them. This included some very nifty over the head backwards photography by me as I was running (I was getting very accomplished in my running photography). We left Mayela and Yasmin as we reached the end of the Bridge and headed off up the hill (yes, a big one) up to the Presidio.

Running with friends (over head shot - see my hat)

Running with friends
(over head shot – see my hat)

At this point there was a water station at the top and it was warmer than expected due to the clear weather around the Bridge (#overdressed) and we stopped to grab some electrolyte drink and water. I noticed as I approached that they had run out of electrolyte and were ‘mixing’ up a batch of powder and water…that explains why the electrolyte drink tasted funny. It wasn’t premixed and seemed to have been made up of different concentration at each station. That made me grateful the cups were not that big after all. After taking 3 cups or so of water (equivalent to about 1-2 in other races) we started our descent down by the coast line at which point I actually ran out of space on my iPhone and couldn’t take any more photos. At least I got the good views in before I ran out of space. My wife also has an iPhone which we used as back up but most of the views were in the first 10 miles of the race so I didn’t feel too disappointed.

Views down from the Bridge - Awesome

Views down from the Bridge – Awesome

Loved this race. I'm still smiling.

Loved this race.
I’m still smiling.

As we were running down the hill and then up to some of the residential areas I overheard a runner talking and struck up a brief conversation with him. Of course the British accent was what caught my ear. When I asked him where was he from? He said he was from the North of England…me too! Where in the North? He said Leeds…me too! Again, small world. Thousands of miles away I bump into a local fellow 🙂

After the Presidio we ran through some residential neighborhoods which were quite hilly but nothing as bad as in the center of the city and they were pretty manageable and we made a turn into Golden Gate Park which was the finish of the First Half Marathon and where the Second Half Marathon started and joined the Full Marathoners.

As we finally split off from the Full Marathoners and turned towards the finish my wife and I ran down the finishers chute towards the line hand in hand. This was our anniversary trip after all. As we crossed the finish line we received our medals and headed to the finishers area for our mylar blankets and refreshments.

At the finish in Golden Gate Park

At the finish in Golden Gate Park

The post race food was different from the usual Philadelphia soft pretzel I’m used to. Irish coffee (yes real Irish coffee with whiskey and whipped cream), scones from Panera Bread, Hawaiian sweet rolls, organic Greek yogurt as well as fruit, natuaral chips and granola. I like West Coast finisher foods!!!

Real Irish coffee

Real Irish coffee

Tasted really good.

Tasted really good.

We stopped quickly by the Rose Garden in the park for a picture and then headed to the buses which would take us back to the start line and our walk back to the hotel. The walk back (again another mile) was a good way to rest and relax and keep moving. We didn’t really pay much attention to the second Half Marathon out on the course but we did notice that it must have been tough for the Full Marathoners to be running past the first Half finisher area in the park and seeing everyone ingesting alcohol and fancy foods. They would get theirs at the finish (along with chocolate milk, my favorite post race treat, which we didn’t get…and I wanted :-)).

After a quick shower we headed back out as we had a full plan for the rest of the day and the next day. First up, the Walt Disney Family Museum.

The Walt Disney Family Museum - in the Presidio

The Walt Disney Family Museum
in the Presidio

Running and Disney…who would have thought they go together 🙂

We are now planning our next destination race.