April 2016 – Month in review

 

April 2016 - Nike+ Summary

April 2016 – Nike+ Summary

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

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

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

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

Seriously...how was your run?

Seriously…how was your run?

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

Sunshine and cycling. A good combination.

Sunshine and cycling. A good combination.

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

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

Tasty. Have to hide them from my two boys.

Tasty. Have to hide them from my two boys.

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

Back again for Philadelphia Marathon number 5 this Fall.

Back again for Philadelphia Marathon number 5 this Fall.

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

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

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

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

Thank you for reading.

 

February 2016 – Month in review

February 2016 – Nike+ Summary

February 2016 – Nike+ Summary

My Nike + Summary shows 127 miles for the month. There was still no cycling this month but I got 2 miles done in the pool.

I did, however, go to my local bike store (Guy’s Bicycles) to meet with the owner regarding a new road bike for my upcoming half iron distance triathlon this summer. I had briefly spoken to him during the annual Bucks County Triathlon Club get together at the start of the month and subsequently set up an appointment with him. I think I’ve chosen the best bike based upon his recommendations and what I can afford and will be waiting for the weather to get warmer to go out for a full test ride. The bike has been built and we are just waiting on the weather. Very exciting.

As per last month, month of the training was done indoors on the treadmill. I’ve certainly got more use out of my home treadmill this month than I have since we got it last May. I just have to get up extra early now so I can coordinate with my wife who typically uses it mostly during weekdays before work while I run outside. I’ll be happy to be outside again so I get to sleep in a little longer and we can both start at the same time.

During the month I finally ran in my first Bucks County Road Runners ‘Winter Series’ race. I have been a member of the running club since 2011 and never had the chance to run in a Winter Series event. My wife has done a few of these but I was always training for a Disney race and the distances and timing/logistics with family never worked out. Our friend is the Race Director this season and our boys happened to have a sleep over that weekend so both my wife and I were able to run together in the ‘Eenie-Meanie-Minie-Moe’ Half Marathon in Tyler State Park.

I have run many miles in that park and the course still took me somewhere I had never been. Somewhere new to include in the course rotations going forward. It was fun. They had a great number of runners and people could choose a series of different distances (based upon the number of loops run). We did the half marathon distance which was the most available on the day. It fit nicely into our New Jersey Marathon training. There was a great post race gathering which apparently happens every week during these races. There is a fire pit, coffee and hot chocolate and all the food you can think off. I took my share of the oatmeal raisin cookies and the (really good) hot chocolate with me as we had to head out to pick up the boys.

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

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

Also this month we entered the lottery for the TCS New York City Marathon. It is the 40th anniversary race this year and sure to be something special in addition to being one of the world majors and a bucket list race. My wife and I both tried for the lottery in 2014 and didn’t get in. This year we both entered again and committed that whoever gets in will run regardless of whether the other doesn’t (spoiler alert – the drawing took place on Tuesday March 8th. My wife got in, I didn’t).

At the end of the month I launched my fundraising page for Autism Speaks. I’ve run for Autism Speaks for the last few years at the Walt Disney World Marathon Weekend. This year I will be raising funds for them through participating in the HITS Hudson Valley Triathlon this July (the name changed from the Kingston, NY to Hudson Valley, NY this month with a slight course change). I am hoping to raise at least $1,000 this year. You can reach my fundraising page here and read about my fundraising here.

Thanks for reading. Looking forward to more outdoor than indoor running as we move headlong towards Spring.

Autism Speaks

 

 

 

April 2015 – Month in review

April 2015 – Nike+ Summary

April 2015 – Nike+ Summary

148 miles this month. Also a little late in posting but better late than never.

I think at this point we can all agree that spring finally arrived. There were a couple of days where I may have taken my run indoors to the treadmill but that is because I couldn’t get my head around pulling out my winter clothes again. It wasn’t going to happen. April…it’s spring enough for me.

April was the peak of the training for the Pittsburgh Marathon and the start of the taper. The race day is May 3rd so the plan is to get to that start line rested and healthy.

The month started with me signing up for early bird pricing for this year’s Philadelphia Marathon. This was my first marathon back in 2011 and is essentially my hometown marathon. I have done it every year except last year when I was in Florida at that time. I love the crowds and the course. If you haven’t ever run this race (the first have of the course is different from all the other half marathons that Philadelphia hosts and the second has great scenery) I highly recommend looking into it.

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With only a couple of weeks left until the Pittsburgh Marathon, and two of us in the house training for it, we had to do a bit of juggling to get our final long runs in without interfering with our weekends and our boys’ schedules. I ended up doing my last 20 miler on a weekday before heading to the office. Yup, up at 2:30am and out the door before 3am. Still managed to get the boys to school and be in the office on time. I will confess that I did drink an excessive amount of coffee that afternoon and I slept like a baby that night. Long run done. Bring on the taper.

Just a couple of days later I ran the Rutgers UNITE Half Marathon. It was perfect weather for running and my performance was really something I was proud of considering I’m coping with a slight injury. You can read my recap here and listen to the recap with my friend John on his podcast, the ‘Runner of a Certain Age‘.

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The next day was a time for recovery. After a 20 mile run and then a hard pushed half marathon I took a rest day from training. I also took a day off from work to volunteer to chaperone a school field trip for my son’s class to the Academy of Natural Sciences in Philadelphia. So, looking after four 8 years…totally relaxing!!!

Me, the boy and the T-rex

Me, the boy and the T-rex

I had another work trip to Atlanta during the month. The weather wasn’t looking great and it was hot and humid. There was a pretty big storm one day but it picked up in the afternoon and I couldn’t waste the opportunity to go out and run. I took a 5 mile run after work along the Chattahoochee River Trail. It was great. A perfect end to a busy day…plus earning a few extra calories never hurt.

Along the Chattachoochee River Trail

Along the Chattachoochee River Trail

After my little work trip to Atlanta I got the chance to bring my eldest son to work for our ‘Bring Your Kids To Work’ program. He had a great day and I was able to show him around the office. He managed to find a certain picture on display in the buildilng. Looks familiar don’t you think?

He fits in quite well

He fits in quite well

He recognized this Dopey fellow

He recognized this Dopey fellow

Towards the end of the month we finally had a free weekend. When I mean a free weekend I mean not totally overloaded. My wife encouraged me to go running in Tyler Park. I hadn’t run there in 10 months so I was really glad to get out in the sunshine. I wore my new INKnBURN ‘Run or Die‘ shirt and it felt cool and fit great. Truly a fun afternoon with no timetable. Perfect.

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A great end to a busy month. Lots to look forward to in May. WIth the Pittsburgh Marathon at the beginning of the month (we are making a mini-vacation out of the weekend with the boys) and my attempt to run ‘Goofy in a Day‘ for charity, it’s going to be quite an adventure.

Again, sorry for the delay in posting but life gets in the way sometimes…in a good way. I’m not complaining.

Thanks for reading.

 

June 2014 – Month in review

Lots of fun times in addition to running this month including a couple of nice surprises.

June 2014 - Nike+ Summary

June 2014 – Nike+ Summary

I reached a new milestone this month. This was the first month since I started running that I ran more than 200 miles in a month (202 per my stats). No wonder I’m tired. This is mostly due to me using Hal Higdon’s Intermediate 2 plan which has more mileage midweek and an extra 20 miler in the plan (1 down and 2 to go as of June 30th). So far all is going well even as the heat and humidity makes the runs more of a workout than normal. I guess training for an August marathon will test your endurance.

The month started with me continuing on the training plan for the marathon but now the distances are becoming greater every week. The good thing is that it is lighter in the morning and with the exception of when I had to travel out of town for work (more on that below) I have been able to run in the daylight and on a few occasions see the sun rise. It’s been fun. I am seeing a lot of familiar faces and a few new faces as I run my usual laps of the park. Good to see some folks out there making their first strides. I encourage with a smile and a wave as I run past as it seems everyone is plugged in but it is paying off now and I get the smiles back. Runners etiquette. Love it.

We finally said goodbye to our BOB Ironman double stroller. Our boys are just too big for this now and I was really struggling to run and push them and keep up with my wife when running. They really had exceeded the weight limit and my eldest son’s knees were pretty much touching his ears. We had lots of fun with that stroller over the last couple of years and we put on a good number of miles together. It was great while it lasted but when casual observers commented that my son was big enough to push me we knew it was time.

Our first stroller run - Memorial Day 2012

Our first stroller run – Memorial Day 2012

Our last stroller run - Memorial Day 2014

Our last stroller run – Memorial Day 2014

On Father’s Day I ran the Gary Papa 5K for Prostate Cancer and met up with my fellow Mickey Miler, Joe. It was nice to meet him and it was a fun day. I travelled down with my father in law and it was good to see him back running races. He is signed up for a few more this year including the Rock and Roll Philadelphia Half Marathon in September. Together with my wife, my sister in law and future brother in law we have a full caravan of cars heading down and it should be a fun day.

At the start with my Father in law

At the start with my Father in law

At the finish line with Joe.

At the finish line with Joe.

On Father’s Day we also go to celebrate my son’s team winning the Flag Football Superbowl. They were unbeaten all season. Now I have to start building my son’s trophy shelf. He was very happy and we are very proud of him and how he played with the team.

My little champion

My little champion

This month also included the Cycle Bucks County event. This was the third year I have taken part in this event and it was a really beautiful sunny day. I opted for the 25 mile route (actually 27 miles) and there were also 10, 50 and 60 mile routes to ride. It was very hilly but a good workout. I did walk a couple of hills (as did many others) as I didn’t want to fry my quads and also as I had a 19 mile run on the training plan the day after.

I earned my ice cream on this ride.

I earned my ice cream on this ride.

With a net elevation of almost 1,900 feet it was a very good workout. You can see the route here.

We had a pleasant surprise when my in laws offered to take our two boys up to Albany, NY for the weekend to visit family. My wife and I had free time which we had not planned that weekend and we took advantage of having some personal time on Saturday to get some stuff done which we wouldn’t have had a chance with the boys around, go out for a nice relaxing dinner and catch a movie. The next day we could sleep a little later and both get our long runs in. I had 19 to run as I said earlier and my wife joined me at mile 8 and we ran my last 11 miles together. She took me to some places in Tyler Park that I had never visited and some hills I had never run before (probably not planning to run those again either). We then had a nice quiet brunch and then headed out to an evening concert (The Steve Miller Band and Journey). A great weekend.

Running the 'Covered Bridge Trail' in Tyler Park. A first for me.

Running the ‘Covered Bridge Trail’ in Tyler Park. A first for me.

Work took me to Atlanta, Georgia this month (and I will be heading there a few times this year). My hotel was nearer Piedmont Park this time around and the office I needed to visit was next to my hotel. With the exception of my first travel day when I headed straight to the office I was able to run every morning. With my short commute (next door) I was able to get my longer training runs in without getting up so early. I usually commute about 55 miles each way so I have to get up early to get my running in. This was also the first of my big weeks on the training plan and it called for runs of 5, 10, 5, 10 and 20. The sun does rise later as we are further west so I had my headlamp for both of the midweek long runs but was able to finish in the day light. It was warm and humid but good training for the heat I will expect in August.

While in Atlanta I got the chance to catch up with ‘Fast Eddie’ McCoy. He is a big part of the Mickey Milers running team and is a big inspiration to many as well as lots of fun. He met me on Wednesday evening while I was there and took me out for a group run from one of the local breweries (Red Brick Brewing Co.). It was about 90 degrees when we ran and it we hit some pretty big climbs. Eddie is fast and his slow is my fast. I was keeping up but it was a hard and fun workout, especially considering the heat. We shared a couple of beers and then had a really nice dinner at Tin Lizzy’s Cantina in Midtown Atlanta. I will definitely be heading back there when I next visit. The last couple of trips to Atlanta I have participated in group runs. I will be looking into doing another one evening on my next trip as I will be travelling solo next time.

Post 5K run with Eddie.

Post 5K run with Eddie.

I finished off the month with a 20 mile long run when I got back from Atlanta. It went well and I felt good even the day after when my boys and I had a crazy busy day together using our membership at the Adventure Aquarium in Camden, New Jersey.

Enjoy time at the Adventure Aquarium

Enjoying time at the Adventure Aquarium

Great times at the Adventure Aquarium

Great times at the Adventure Aquarium

Enjoying a 'Cake Batter Shake'. I claim only 1/3rd of the calories :-)

Enjoying a ‘Cake Batter Shake’ with my boys

Also new this month, for me anyway, were my new shirts from ‘INKnBURN‘. I took advantage of some discount codes online and purchased a few items. I’m really happy with them. I think the shirts are great and they work well as technical running shirts. Very comfortable.

The 'Healing Mandala' tech shirt

The ‘Healing Mandala’ tech shirt

The 'Ganesha' tech shirt

The ‘Ganesha’ tech shirt

The 'Rock and Roll Run or Die' tank top

The ‘Rock’n Roll Run or Die’ tank top

It was a busy month and I had lots of time on my feet outdoors both training, running with friends, running with my wife and playing with my boys. I’d say June was a success. Looking forward to the rest of summer.

While I have your attention (if you have stuck with me this far I guess I have) I’d like to remind and ask you if you would be willing to support me in my fundraising efforts for Autism Speaks. As you may know from this blog I will be running the 2015 Walt Disney World ‘Goofy’s Race and a Half Challenge’ with Team Up / Autism Speaks. This will be my third year running for this team and I hope to take my total raised over the years to over $10,000. I cannot do this without everyone’s support. If you feel you can contribute I would very much appreciate this. I thank you in advance. You can donate by using this link.

Thank you for reading and have a great summer.

April and May – Month(s) in review

As I was starting my review for May I realized that I never posted the month in review for April. It may have been that I was a little busy around the month end (see here) which took my mind elsewhere for a few days and I never actually realized my oversight until just now. April, after all, was a pretty big month for me.

April 2014 - Nike+ Summary

April 2014 – Nike+ Summary

My monthly stats show 152 miles but that is not the whole story for the month. I set a new Marathon PR (3:54:30) at the New Jersey Marathon. In addition I ran a the inaugural Philadelphia Hot Chocolate 15K and the Bucks County Half Marathon. With the inaugural Philadelphia LOVE Run back on March 30th this made for a very busy few weeks of training and racing. The cool thing about that is that all my race times were around my marathon goal pace so I actually went into the marathon with confidence. All the hard work paid off. I was a very happy fellow for a few days…until I had to take about 10 days of unforced rest.

Philadelphia Hot Chocolate 15K

Philadelphia Hot Chocolate 15K

Bucks County Half Marathon

Bucks County Half Marathon

What else…oh yes, my wife and I signed up for the Baltimore Running Festival. We will be running the Baltimore Marathon together. My hope is that we can bring her marathon PR down further. I’m confident she can. We also signed up for the 2014 Rock and Roll Philadelphia Half Marathon. I was hesitant to do this again as I have run it for the last 3 years and we had discussed skipping this but for some reason we decided to give it another chance this year. After all, we have a family wedding later this year and we want to look good in the pictures.

April was also registration time for the 2015 Walt Disney World Marathon weekend. Again I signed up with Team Up/Autism Speaks for a third year but this time ‘just’ the Goofy Challenge. My wife also signed up with Team Up so we are fundraising together (harder than training if you ask me). As part of our fundraising efforts we are running two virtual 5K fun run/walk events. This proved both popular and successful for me last year and we are hoping for the same this year. We actually have some really great medals and vendors have been generous to offer some cool prizes for participants this year. I hope you take a few minutes to take a look, perhaps join in one of the events and please do share this with your friends/running partners. It should be fun. Here are the medals designed for the events.

005K medal

005K medal

Going Goofy

Going Goofy

With a rather abrupt end to April (running wise) and a short break in training in May I had some ground to make up…well, really I was antsy and wanted to get back out there ASAP. Here is my recap for May.

May 2014 - Nike+ Summary

May 2014 – Nike+ Summary

I still managed to get 113 training miles in during the month and was very grateful to be able to do so. The weather outside in May has been glorious. Yes, there have been some cool mornings but with the exception of a couple of rainy runs it has been great to be outdoors in the early mornings as the sun is rising and get my runs in. Now that I am training using Hal Higdon’s Intermediate 2 training program my weekday mileage has crept up a little. I’m glad for the extra sunlight so I am not so reliant on the headlamp right now.

My wife ran in a couple of races this month. Early in May she ran a new PR at the Broad Street Run 10 miler in Philadelphia and on Mother’s Day I signed her up for a local 10K where she came back with a 2nd place age group finisher award. Go Shari!!! I’m a big fan (when I can keep up with her).

My wife with one of her awards (2nd place age group - Mother's Day 10K)

My wife with one of her awards (2nd place age group – Mother’s Day 10K)

The rest of this month has really been focused on managing the new training program and the increase in mileage. I am trying to follow the program diligently and doing the pace runs before the long runs. So far so good. Holding about an 8:30 min/mile pace on the hilly course where I train so I’m pleased with that.

On Memorial Day I finally took the bike out for my first ride of the season. I’m pleased to say that I got in 20 miles and felt comfortable. I have signed up for a third year now for the Cycle Bucks County riding event in June so I’m looking forward to that. I think 25 miles is my comfort level when it comes to cycling right now. I’m not yet ready for the Ironman training.

Memorial Day was also the last time we did a family run with our double stroller. The boys are just too big. We bought the double stroller back in 2012 so that my wife and I could both run together with the boys. We have put on well over 150 miles running together with the stroller including three 5K races as well as a couple of long vacation runs. We figured that the boys were on the cusp of the weight limit at the end of last summer but held on to it over the winter. We took it out on Memorial Day and I just couldn’t keep up with my wife. My boys are getting bigger and we were not able to keep up with each other. It was time for it to go but we had some great times running and a lot of fun. It went to a good home.

Our last stroller run. As you can see, the boys are big enough to push me.

As you can see, the boys are big enough to push me.

With the good results of the medical procedure behind me I can now concentrate on other matters. One thing I wanted to look at since I PR’d at the New Jersey Marathon is a chance to better it. I think I can do it. I signed up for a local marathon held in late summer on a flat and fast course along the Delaware Canal Towpath. It is in August so there may be some heat to deal with but that is my goal and after that I can enjoy Baltimore and then Goofy with my wife.

I’ve also signed up for the Gary Papa Father’s Day 5K in Philadelphia. I ran this back in 2012 and this is still my 5K PR (23:31) although I don’t run many anymore. I haven’t decided if I am going to race this for a PR or do this for fun. We shall see how I feel closer to the date. It is a good fundraiser for prostate cancer awareness and draws a large number of entrants. It is a fairly flat and fast course down by the Philadelphia Museum of Art. That is coming up on Father’s Day (June 15).

Also, I finally I decided to sign up for a race that I had been tempted to in the past but had not done yet. A midnight 8 miler in July as part of the ‘philadelphia#in24‘ series of races taking place along the banks of the Schuylkill River in Philadelphia on July 19 through the 20th. It is a 24 hour event featuring an ultra marathon, a relay challenge, a midnight run and a 5K. Should be fun. I’ll be there all lit up in lights and reflective gear.

I have a pretty busy season coming up and lots to look forward to. It’s not all running though. As much as my wife and I pack in with our training and racing we still have plenty of time for our boys. There is a swimming pool in our development for those hot summer afternoons, we just bought a trampoline so our kids can tire themselves out (hopefully) as well as memberships at Sesame Place, the Adventure Aquarium in New Jersey, the Philadelphia Zoo and the Academy of Natural Sciences in Philadelphia (thank you Groupon for all you do!). We are also planning a weekend in New York City with the boys and are planning a trip to the Statue of Liberty. As I said, running is just part of our lives…not all that we do.

Thanks for reading. Hope you are having a good start to the summer.

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 Bucks County Half Marathon – Race Recap

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Last weekend I ran the 2014 Bucks County Half Marathon. This was my very first half marathon back in April 2011 (my wife convinced me to sign up two weeks prior to the event that time). I also ran the event back in 2012 but it didn’t fit into my training program for last year’s New Jersey Marathon. This year, however, the plan called for 12 miles so this was a good fit.

It is held in Tyler State Park in Richboro, PA and is about 10 minutes for my house. I have trained in there for a number of my marathons. It is a great place to run. As I was driving to the event that morning I realized I became one of those people who paid to run somewhere I typically run for free. I guess that makes me a ‘real runner’ LOL.

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The packet pickup was pretty simple. It was held at the Newtown Athletic Club. There wasn’t an expo but they did have some race merchandise (new this year). The club was local so I was able to run in/out quickly so as not to mess up our day. This was great because my last few races have had packet pickups which have not been very convenient. Did I tell you that I love local races?

The weather forecast for the event was much better than in the previous two weeks (see LOVE Run and Hot Chocolate Run recaps) so I was looking forward to actually staying warm and dry. I set up my gear the night before as always before a race and chose to wear my newest shoes which I plan to wear for the marathon to get a few miles/long runs on them before the big day. They are a little red don’t you think?

Race ready with my red shoes

Race ready with my red shoes

Being a local race I didn’t have to get up at the crack of dawn like usual. With a 10 minute drive and no parking issues that I knew of I planned to leave the house around 7am for an 8am start. No problem…or so I thought. It looks like everyone else had the same idea. Yup…panic sets in when you are stuck trying to get into the park and it is already 7:30. I took a couple of pictures outside the park as I and dozens of others were trying to get to the starting area.

So....I guess everyone is local and had the same idea

So….I guess everyone is local. This was the line outside trying to get into the park

This was the line inside the park waiting to park

This was the line inside the park waiting to park

I finally made it into the parking lot, stretched by my car and walked a couple of hundred yards to the starting area. First things first when you get to a race close to the start time…you hit the port-a-potties. Again, everyone had the same idea. Ugh! There were about a dozen port-a-potties for about 700 people. I stood in line as the clock ticked down to the start time. The line didn’t really move. Ugh! Well…I looked around and saw that a few people were making their way across an adjacent field. What happens in the woods, stays in the woods.

Nature literally calls...

Nature literally calls…

The race was set to start at 8am (at least I thought it did). Actually, and thankfully, it started around 8:15am. I think there may have been a deliberate delay as when I was walking from the parking lot there were a few folks from the race crew running up and back with walkie-talkies. I figure they recognized the bottle neck of people trying to get into the park so pushed the start back.

Folks relaxing in the starting corral

Folks relaxing in the starting corral

There were no corrals like in bigger races. The faster runners placed themselves up near the front and everyone else kind of either stood with friends, near the back if they were walking or just stood where they were. I saw someone I knew (Jason) and headed back to wish him good luck. The National Anthem was sung and off we went.

Now the one thing about starting near the ‘Arts Center’ at Tyler is that by the center there is space to mill around (see the corral photo above) but within a couple of hundred yards from the start line the pathway significantly narrows. At best you can have 3 people run side by side comfortably. As you progress down that path (it’s a downhill) the sides off the path drop away so there is not much opportunity to pass other runners unless you like to live dangerously and don’t need both ankles to run on. Needless to say the first half mile pretty soon became a bottle neck. That is not the fault of the organizers but more a limit of the terrain in the park.

The race didn’t have waved corrals and the one corral we did have wasn’t stacked by pace like I have seen in other races. I have been to other races when everyone goes in one big wave but they have put out signs within the corral based upon pace so people could line up under 7:00/mile, 8:00/mile, 9:00/mile, etc which meant that people would start out with similar paced runners and that would somewhat alleviate bottle necks and people trying to pass in the first half mile or so. Just a thought.

It was actually too crowded that it was really unsafe for me to do my usual run/walk interval (currently using 4:00/0:45) because I feared it would be too dangerous for me to stop. Now I don’t necessarily have to take my walk intervals so I ended up skipping the first two intervals and ran the first mile with the other runners until there was enough space around me to make it safe to move over to the side for a walk break. The temperatures were already rising so I took water in early and pretty much skipped only a couple of water stations when they were close together.

The course for the race is a small loop of 3 miles and then two 5 mile loops. The 5 mile loop is my usual circuit so I knew what to expect and where the hills were. Interestingly the 3 mile loop was different from when I ran in 2011 and 2012. Where in previous times I had run an outer loop of the park down a steep hill back to the boat house area, this took a slightly less elevated route through the local elementary school parking lot and through a parking lot within the park and back along the creek which we had run on the way out on the 3 mile loop. It was nice as I was not looking forward to the larger hill that early in the race. Nice to run something a little different.

Heading down hill on the initial 3 mile loop

Heading downhill on the initial 3 mile loop

From here it was the usual (or should I say ‘my usual’) loop past the boat house and around the back of Bucks County Community College, past the farm and up the big hill towards the residential side of the park (I envy those houses every time I run past them). This loop repeats twice and with its long winding up hill direction it is usually my slowest part of the run. Today was no different. I seemed to be managing a decent pace considering and was able to keep my pace per mile below 9 minutes given the rising temperatures and the inclines. I was monitoring my heart rate as I have struggled in the past in this section and slowed myself down once I was close to 170bpm. This time I was doing fine and enjoying the run. You can see from my Garmin Activity the course and elevation.

This is one of the 'smaller' hills which we ran around miles 4.5 & 9.5

This is one of the ‘smaller’ hills which we ran around miles 4.5 and 9.5

Once you hit the part of the loop past the houses there is a nice downhill section where you can easily make up time until you round the corner to the starting/finish line area which we would run through on the first loop. The course was open to walkers. On the first loop we passed the walkers as we came back on ourselves before mile 3. We (or I) didn’t pass too many walkers until the second loop. I will commend them as a group as even in the narrow parts of the course no-one was blocking runners coming up behind them and they all seemed to be having a good time.

Personally this was a race that I wasn’t totally ‘racing’ but did have a time expectation not a time goal. I have been trying to focus on improving my speed going into the New Jersey Marathon at the end of April and I figure a good run in Tyler with all those hills is a good sign of my fitness/conditioning. The last two races I had run (LOVE Run Half Marathon and Hot Chocolate 15K) had been good performances for me averaging 8:34/mile for the half and 8:46 for the 15K so I was keen to keep my pace under 9:00/mile in Tyler which would lead to a sub 2-hour time. I wasn’t looking to push too hard or PR as I was supposed to be in ‘taper’ mode and this was scheduled to be a ‘long run’. The run itself felt comfortable. I never felt like I was pushing nor did I feel like I was running too easy and ultimately my finish time reflected this. I was very happy with my time. I was under 2 hours and beat my 2012 finish time. That made for two sub 2-hour half marathons in 15 days. I finished with an official time of 1:56:45 with an average pace of 8:54.

Happy at the finish line

Happy at the finish line

The medal goes well with my very red shoes. I think I need a running outfit makeover one day.

The medal goes well with my very red shoes. I think I need a running outfit makeover.

A good day

A good day

The finisher medal was in the shape of Bucks County, PA and was nice. Very impressed that the actual medal ribbon had different scenes of Bucks County printed on it.

The 'Bucks' bling

The ‘Bucks’ bling

I joked that the medal was in the shape of a map in case I got lost. That is not too far from the truth. The very first time I ran in Tyler park was a week before the event in 2011. I printed off the course map with a plan to run 10 miles (at that point my longest run to date). I learned quickly that there are many routes in Tyler and also being new to this park its best not to hold the map upside down when you run. I’m definitely better at that these days 😉

The finish line area was in the small parking lot to the side of the start line. There was water, soft pretzels, bananas and even pizza. There were some local vendors who were sponsoring the race so they had samples of their wares. There were smoothie samples (which I skipped) and there were bread/cake samples (which I didn’t skip…multiple times). The crowds were decent at the finish line for a local race. I only saw a few folks around the park cheering others on but seeing as this was a 5 mile loop it made most sense to stay near the start/finish line area as you would see your runner pass by as they began the second and final loop and it was great to hear the encouragement.

One thing I did notice was that there were spectators in the finish line area eating some of the pizza and other refreshments. I didn’t stay too long as I had a busy family day ahead. I heard from another member of my running team (Mickey Milers) the next day that for the walkers the post race refreshment area was packed up by the time that they finished. Only the timing mats were out to record their finish time. The race website said that the race was open to walkers so it seems a shame that they didn’t get to experience the same benefits that the runners did. I hope in future years that everyone is treated equally.

Overall it was a great day for a run and a nice (if not familiar) race. Would I return again? Perhaps depending on my schedule. The novelty of running a half marathon in Tyler Park where I do a lot of training doesn’t thrill me as much as it used to but the atmosphere was good. I would recommend this race to folks who don’t train here as it is a good challenge in nice scenery.

Up next I have to get through the taper, learn to manage with limited mileage and catch up on my sleep. I take away from this the confidence that I am maintaining my goal pace of sub 9:00/mile going into the New Jersey Marathon. Fingers crossed I run a sensible and comfortable race. This was a nice warm up for me.

Thanks for reading.