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.


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).


Clear blue skies


A nice place for us to run




The little lady


Happy to be here


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.

If you’re going to San Francisco…

My wife and I took a 10th wedding anniversary trip to San Francisco last week and it seemed like a good opportunity to bring along a friend on my run…

As part of my fundraising for Team Up for next year’s inaugural Dopey Challenge I have set up a virtual 5K. As part of the fun I have been asking participants to take along Dopey on their run/walk. So in addition to earning the cool looking medal the best pictures will be eligible for one of the prizes that were generously donated from some of my favorite vendors. Although I am not eligible for the prizes I wanted to participate in my own event as I wanted to be part of the fun.

As this was our first trip to San Francisco we wanted to cover as much ground as possible and really the best way to visit a place is to do so on foot. We just happened to do it in running sneakers. Although we ran pretty much the same route from Union Square along Market Street then along the Embarcadero (it’s not easy to find flat areas to run in San Francisco) we took to this streets for 3 runs in addition to the Half Marathon. We did actually take a day off from running…but we hiked in Muir Woods National Park instead.

As you can see from the Garmin maps below we pretty much followed the same route on Friday, Saturday and Tuesday. Just a little different distance and pace on each.

Friday's 'Dopey' run

Friday’s ‘Dopey’ run

Saturday's run

Saturday’s run

Tuesday's run - our last hurrah before heading to the airport

Tuesday’s run – our last hurrah before heading to the airport

Here are a few highlights of the running the virtual 5K with Dopey (camera credits to my wife 🙂 without whom it would probably have been a single ‘selfie’ with Dopey).

Heading out for my run

Heading out for my run

Hey, look!  A cable car

Hey, look! A cable car

Is he still behind me?

Is he still behind me?

At the Exploratarium

At the Exploratarium

We cannot run to Alcatraz

We cannot run to Alcatraz

Dopey hanging on tight

Dopey hanging on tight

Just being Dopey

Just being Dopey

There’s still a chance to sign up for the event. It runs through July 31st. Check out the event and the prizes on offer.

I will be writing a separate post on the Half Marathon.

May 2013 – month in review

May 2013 - Nike+ Summary

May 2013 – Nike+ Summary

115 miles this month. I have learned this month that looking just at the numbers does not tell the full story.

I started the month with high expectations for achieving a PR at the New Jersey Marathon. I was just coming off a PR in the Atlantic City April Fool’s Half Marathon which I thought would be a pretty similar terrain being by the shore and I had definitely put in the miles of training.

As you can read from my race recap things didn’t go according to plan. I didn’t achieve my PR and felt fatigued. This manifested itself about 10 days later when my body just ran out of juice. Rather than be in a funk about why I hadn’t achieved my goals and looking for a dozen reasons why I felt bad I took the time to look at how I got here, what I was doing right and what I was doing wrong. It basically came down to quality vs quantity. I took a couple of days off and readjusted my goals and my training. Hopefully going forward the changes I am planning will pay off. You can read about that here.

This month I launched a Virtual 5K run to raise funds for Autism Speaks for the 2014 Walt Disney World Marathon Weekend where I am running in the inaugural Dopey Challenge. So far the reception to this has been great. Many people have signed up and the first 100 medals have been ordered. I encourage you to sign up and participate if you can just for the fun of it. Remember, if you fully participate and post a picture of Dopey on your run you may be eligible for one of the prizes. See this post for details.

I have my Dopey ready for my run

I have my Dopey ready to run

At the end of the month we celebrated Memorial Day weekend and the official start of the summer. It was a fun weekend as I got to spend a lot of time with the family and celebrate my 10th wedding anniversary. You can read about that here.

Finally, based on a little encouragement, I am venturing into uncharted territory. I have basically been running using Jeff Galloway’s Run/Walk Method since February 2011. It has served me well and got me through 5 marathons. When I revisited what I had been doing as discussed earlier I noticed that although I was putting in the miles I was not getting any faster and all my runs were pretty much the same. Ultimately I want to improve on my marathon times going forward and during the New Jersey Marathon even my walk breaks didn’t seem to help. I am currently reading Pete Pfitzinger’s book on Advanced Marathoning and although I do not expect I will train at that level or follow his plans I am looking to change up my running experience.

Over the last three runs I basically threw caution to the wind and did not use the Galloway Method. I ran a 6 mile easy pace run, a 5 mile tempo run and this morning I ran 10 miles without stopping. These are the furthest distances I have run non stop. That sounds silly coming from someone who has run 5 marathons (including a Goofy Challenge) but I want to see what I can achieve. I believe somewhere out there is a 3:30-3:45 marathon that I can run. It’s worth a try. I’ll be watching carefully how my body reacts and I am open to using Galloway again in the future if I think it will be beneficial. I already plan on doing something like that during Dopey just so I can survive the event!

Looking at the last 3 days of runs it seems to be working so far and I feel okay. Judging from my splits over the last 3 runs my average pace is already that bit quicker. We will see what the future holds I guess.

6 miles easy pace - 5/29/13

6 miles easy pace – 5/29/13

5 miles Tempo run - 5/30/13: 1 mile warm up - 2 miles at tempo with 800m recovery - 1 mile cool down

5 miles Tempo run – 5/30/13:
1 mile warm up – 2 miles at tempo with 800m recovery – 1 mile cool down

10 miles long run - 5/31/13 - miles 1-5

10 miles long run – 5/31/13 – miles 1-5

10 miles long run - 5/31/13 - miles 6-10

10 miles long run – 5/31/13 – miles 6-10

Speaking of future plans, I have a 5K coming up this Sunday (June 2nd) which I will be pushing my two boys in the running stroller again…no PR there 🙂 and on June 16th I will be running the San Francisco Half Marathon with my Wife. I then have the 25 miles Cycle Bucks County event on the 22nd. Lot’s to look forward to. June should be a pretty low key month as the training for this year’s Philadelphia Marathon and January 2014 Dopey Challenge start in earnest in mid-July.

See you on the road.

California here I come…

California, here I come
Right back where I started from
Where bowers of flowers
Bloom in the spring
Each morning, at dawning
Birdies sing and everything
A sun-kissed miss said, “Don’t be late”
That’s why I can hardly wait
Open up that Golden Gate
California, here I come

The Golden Gate Bridge in San Francisco, CA at sunset.

The Golden Gate Bridge (San Francisco, CA)

My Wife and I just signed up for the San Francisco Half Marathon (the 1st Half Marathon) as part of the San Francisco Marathon weekend in June.  We were looking for a getaway for our 10th wedding anniversary and I had always wanted to visit the city and Shari said we should look to find a race out there. As I said in my previous post it’s awesome to have someone to share your interests with.

We started to ask people what there was to do in San Francisco (recommendations still welcome by the way) and someone suggested walking the Golden Gate Bridge.  My thought is why walk it when you can run it….TWICE!!!

Based on what we have seen the 1st Half Marathon (starting at a very ‘Disney’esque time of 5:30am) is more scenic and the only Half Marathon that goes over the famous bridge.  (There are two Half Marathons which basically follow the Full Marathon route – just split the course down the middle for each). Although the city appears to be hilly (based on my recollections from seeing the film Bullitt and countless others) the 1st Half is the least hilly of the two half marathons.  Not that I’m complaining.

Here is a tour of the course for the 1st Half Marathon.

Shari says that having run the Benjamin Franklin Bridge run in Philadelphia in 2011 and 2012 this won’t be too dissimilar.  Well, maybe it will be warmer in San Francisco in June than it is in November in Philadelphia.  I hope.

Although it is an early start we are staying about 15 minutes walk from the start line area and if we do our usual pacing we may be done before 8 a.m. and back in the hotel to shower and grab breakfast which still leaves us with a full day for sightseeing.  Nice.  Looking at the website the it says that all finishers over the age of 21 will get an Irish coffee at the finish line.  At 8 a.m.?  Well, you are on vacation so why not (plus the kids are at home with my In-laws).

Looking forward to writing my race report after the race.  Excuse any typos…not sure how well I function after running 13.1 miles and drinking an Irish coffee but it will be fun to find out. 🙂