2019 Los Angeles Marathon – Race recap

In late March my wife and I traveled to California to take part in this year’s Los Angeles Marathon. I’ll say it now…it was a great experience and I highly recommend it.

In looking for a spring marathon together we had originally set our sights on running Rock ‘n’ Roll New Orleans. We had some logistical issues (no babysitter for a long weekend) so we searched around a little more. I still had some airline miles from my previous job that were going unused, so we threw caution to the wind and figured that we’d go big or go home. LA was the chosen destination and it proved to be a great choice.

So, if you know anything about us we don’t just go to run. We sightsee. A lot. My wife is an event planner by profession and as soon as the registration for the race had been processed then the planning spreadsheet was created. I should note that this blog may turn out to be more a whirlwind tour of Los Angeles with a little run thrown in the middle versus a race recap LOL. What do they say about keeping off your feet before a marathon? We seem to ignore that and go by the rule ‘No sleep until Philly’ whenever we go on a road trip. As this was going to be a special trip for us I invested in a refurbished GoPro for the trip. Lot’s of experimenting including running in my local park to see how I could manage this on race day. I think the local wildlife must think I’m really weird.

Training for a spring marathon means training through East Coast winters. Although this was not a terrible winter (save for a really cold snap) we didn’t have too much snow compared to prior years but it was just the cold that was bone chilling. Hence, most of the training took part indoors on the treadmill. Knowing that we would be running soon in sunshine with palm trees framing our streets this was motivation for pushing through those endless hours running and not getting anywhere. I think I made it outside for long runs about 50% of the time but I did log at least one 20 miler inside on the treadmill. Plus side is that I got to catch up on a lot of Netflix shows.

We headed to LA on the Thursday before the race. We had an early morning flight but with the time change we arrived early afternoon. We stayed in Culver City which was fairly close to the airport so the drive was short. We picked Culver City as the race finished in Santa Monica about 10 minutes away and being a point to point race the buses left from there to the start on race morning. It was close enough and just being a few minutes away from Santa Monica itself was cost effective. We dropped our bags and headed straight to Santa Monica and some warm sunshine. We scoped out the area a bit and rented bikes to travel along the beach towns towards our destination for the evening in Abbot Kinney.

Arriving at LAX – on the look out for celebrities (after we found our bags)
First stop – Santa Monica Pier
First stop – Santa Monica Pier
Ocean Park, Santa Monica
We rented bikes and explored the neighborhoods
Biking along the beach
Stopping to flex at Muscle Beach – no one around was impressed

Friday was race expo day and we got up early to head to downtown LA to pick up all race bibs and gear for the weekend. We got up early because we had heard many times over that driving in LA was really bad. That’s all everyone seems to go on about when talking about LA. However, I must have been lucky the whole visit as we never seemed to have any traffic issues the time we were there and we drove around a lot….again, the event planner with us.

The expo was at the Convention Center just behind the Staples Center and we had fun walking around before we actually got into the expo. Once inside everything was clearly marked and identifiable. As we walked in we bumped into Rudy Novotny the race announcer. I know Rudy from meeting him at runDisney events in the past. He gave a shout out to ‘Team Shenanigans’. Good times.

Exploring the home of the LA Lakers
Exploring the home of the LA Lakers
Exploring the home of the LA Lakers
The Expo was held at the Los Angeles Convention Center in downtown Los Angeles
Clearly they knew we were coming
Rudy giving a quick shout out to Team Shenanigans
Bib pick-up was easy and efficient
Bib pick-up was easy and efficient

The marathon sponsor this year was Skechers and the merchandise area was full of cool looking and very reasonably priced gear, definitely not New York City Marathon pricing for sure. I ended up buying a fun shirt representing the course and my wife bought a fun hat. She had more luck at the Lululemon pop up store outside of the official merchandise area. Doesn’t she always seem to have ‘luck’ at Lululemon??? The expo was not huge for a race this size and we went through fairly quickly. A lot of sponsors for local races which wasn’t going to be of much interest to us visiting for the long weekend. I did bump into my friend Michael who was using this marathon as a stop on his way to his 50 States goal. I also took the opportunity to treat myself to the Normatec vendor’s offer of a free leg treatment. Very relaxing.

Let the Expo madness begin
Heading into the official merchandise area
The merchandise section was busy with lots of options at reasonable prices (for a big race)
Heading out to the Expo floor
Our names are on the wall so we have to run now
Picking her goal destination for the race
Leaving our mark on the runners wall
Leaving our mark on the runners wall
Getting some pre-marathon leg ‘recovery’ time
Always nice to see a friendly face at any race – here with Michael on his road to 50 States
Oh yes – it’s on!!!
Last photo op of the day

After the expo we took a trip up to the Griffith Park Observatory for the afternoon after a stop at the steps famously used by Laurel and Hardy in the short film ‘The Music Box’. I had seen this movie many times over the years and had planned to make this a stop on our trip as I noted it was near the Convention Center. That’s a lot of stairs before a marathon. Mind you, the hike up to the Griffith Observatory isn’t less of a work out either. The views at the top were worth it. From there we took a drive to Beverly Hills and Rodeo Drive. We would be running through these streets on Sunday so we took the time today to enjoy them at a more relaxed pace before grabbing dinner and a reasonably early night. We had accomplished a lot and we still had a day to go before the marathon.

I had been wanting to visit these steps on our trip and glad they were close by and accessible
I had been wanting to visit these steps on our trip and glad they were close by and accessible
I had been wanting to visit these steps on our trip and glad they were close by and accessible
The Hollywood sign as seen from the Griffith Observatory
The Griffith Observatory
The sights at the Griffith Observatory
The sights at the Griffith Observatory
Visiting Beverly Hills
Blocking traffic on Rodeo Drive – drivers were not impressed by our shenanigans
You can look…but don’t touch!!!

Saturday morning was the day before the marathon…surely we would stay off our feet today? Nope. We came all this way for this race so we had to pack in as much as we could. We started the day with a ‘hike’ to the top of Runyon Canyon. The views of the Hollywood Hills were spectacular but the sign warning of us to be on the look out for rattle snakes was just a tad disconcerting. Following an insanely crazy breakfast at ‘The Griddle Café’ in Hollywood we spent the afternoon exploring up and down Hollywood Boulevard. Again, we would be running this the next day but I was on the hunt to find some of my favorite stars on the Hollywood ‘Walk of Fame’ as well as the hands and feet in cement at the ‘Chinese Theater’. We also took a tour of the Warner Brothers Studio where my wife and I reenacted scenes from some of our favorite shows on the actual sets…and were given ‘that look’ from the tour guide. Hey, we were having fun. After a nice pre-race pasta dinner at a fancier than I was expecting restaurant (I was fully prepared to be turned away based upon what I was wearing) we headed home for our early (and I mean early) wake up for our 4:30am bus from Santa Monica the next day.

Resting our legs before the marathon…
Ummm….
Time for some serious carb loading before the race tomorrow
Time for some serious carb loading before the race tomorrow
Time for some serious carb loading before the race tomorrow
Time for some serious carb loading before the race tomorrow
Time for some serious carb loading before the race tomorrow
Such tourists
The hands and feet of the original Star Trek cast
Look really closely and see if you can spot it – Mel’s a funny guy
Some of my favorites
Some of my favorites
Some of my favorites
Some of my favorites
Some of my favorites
Some of my favorites
Some of my favorites
A great tour – highly recommended
A great tour – highly recommended
Recreating the scene with Ross and Rachel at the Geller’s house
My wife tells me this has something to do with Full or Fuller House (not my thing)
Geeks
…and the Academy Award goes to…
Flat Ian ready for race day

Race day

Waking up at near Disney race times is not always fun but we had a great tour of Los Angeles and it’s surrounding neighborhoods planned for the day. I had pre-reserved parking in one of the lots closest to the finish line and we headed out around 4am for the short drive to the buses. The drive was short but the lines to get into the parking was longer than we expected. Nevertheless we were soon parked and on route to the buses. It was quick and easy and the drive from Santa Monica to the starting area at LA’s Dodgers stadium took about 20-25 minutes.

OMG it’s early time
Traveling to Pasadena early on Sunday morning

We got there with plenty of time to spare. It was dark so we just followed everyone else into the stadium where all the bathrooms were open on the concourse. These were much better than waiting outside for port-a-potties. Plus we got to sit in the stadium and relax for a while before having to head out to the corrals.

Arriving early at Dodgers Stadium
Arriving early at Dodgers Stadium

Go time for the race was 7am and so we headed out to the corrals while it was still dark. We missed where to enter into the starting chute and ended up with a whole crowd of people at the barrier at the side of our predicted race pace. It was a bit of a mess trying to get in. People were shoving here and there. We had asked a couple of volunteers early where we needed to be and they didn’t have much of an idea. Anyway we made it into the corrals (with the mob) and set about heading to the starting line and out of Dodgers Stadium. The race announcers mentioned the number of runners participating in the ‘Students Run LA’ program who were running in the marathon today. About 3,000 students would be running their first marathon on the day. They were clearly identifiable in their bright yellow shirts. More on this later.

The craziness of getting into the corrals
The sea of Students Run LA

The LA Marathon is advertised as the ‘From the stadium to the sea’. The course starts in Pasadena at Dodgers Stadium and the course takes you through the streets of Los Angeles and its surrounding neighborhoods to finish along the Pacific Coast at Santa Monica Pier. It is a grand tour with some fantastic sites. The following list of mile markers is from the official LA Marathon website.

  • Starting Line
  • Mile 1 – Dodger Stadium
  • Mile 2 – Cesar Chavez Blvd
  • Mile 3 – Downtown LA
  • Mile 4 – Disney Concert Hall
  • Mile 5 – Downtown LA
  • Mile 6 – Echo Park
  • Mile 7 – Silverlake
  • Mile 8 – Los Feliz
  • Mile 9 – Thai Town
  • Mile 10 – Hollywood Walk of Fame
  • Mile 11 – Grauman’s Chinese Theater
  • Mile 12 – Hollywood
  • Mile 13 – Sunset Strip
  • Mile 14 – West Hollywood
  • Mile 15 – West Hollywood
  • Mile 16 – Doheny Drive
  • Mile 17 – Rodeo Drive
  • Mile 18 – Santa Monica Blvd
  • Mile 19 – Westwood
  • Mile 20 – Westwood/Sepulveda Blvd
  • Mile 21 – VA/Wilshire Blvd
  • Mile 22 – San Vicente & Bundy
  • Mile 23 – San Vicente & 26th
  • Mile 24 – San Vicente & 14th
  • Mile 25 – Ocean Ave/Palisades Park
  • Mile 26 – Santa Monica
  • Finish Line
The LA Marathon Course

As you can imagine, we were excited by the prospect of some fantastic opportunities to see this city on foot and we weren’t to be disappointed. Conditions on the day were amazing. Clear blue skies and streets lined with palm trees. Just like the brochure 😉

I’m not going to go into detailed description of the course but I will share some of the highlights of the day. At the end of this post I will attach a link to my video (from the GoPro) of our day out on the marathon course. As for the course, in summary, it was great. Lots of eye candy. Plenty of photo opportunities and more hills than I imagined (hey…’Hollywood Hills’, ‘Beverly Hills’…how did I not see that coming). I wouldn’t say this was a course if you are looking for a fast time unless you were going to be near the front. This was the Olympic Trials course for 2016 so it could be considered fast but it was quiet congested mid-pack as there were a lot (or so it seemed) of first time marathoners out there. Going back to what I was saying about the 3,000 Students Run LA participants, you have at least that many first timers and it just made it that much more congested. Don’t get me wrong, these kids were amazing. Running a marathon at that age is such a great achievement but there were many ‘packs’ of runners along the course.

Chinatown
Quite a fun sign to see while running
Outside Grauman’s Chinese Theater
The Comedy Store
The Whisky-a-Go-Go
The Troubadour
Running down Route 66
Palm trees framing the road
My wife loving her time in Beverly Hills
My wife loving her time in Beverly Hills – check out her shirt
The official photographer captured some fun photos
The official photographer captured some fun photos

We did have a great time and there were many highlights. Around mile 7 we had our first personal cheer leader of the day. I had met Phillip through my connection with Autism Speaks many years ago. He has since moved on to work with the Arthritis Foundation but as an LA local he came out to support us and even made a sign for us. That was a great boost early in the race. Around mile 20 when things start to get rough during a marathon a cousin, Paul, who loves out in the LA area came out to support us. He was there to cheer on his fellow gym team (Paul competes in stair climbing challenges). He ran along side us for a little while and gave us another much-needed boost. We would get back together with him for brunch the next day. Finally, as we entered Brentwood in the last few miles of the race, Kristen who is another LA local and a member of Team Shenanigans had a cheering section out on the course. So much fun to meet her and to see that she had chalked our name on the ground in anticipation of our arrival. That was awesome to come all this way and have people we knew come out to cheer for us really made the day.

Phillip cheering us on
Cousin Paul at just the right time
Kristen leading a cheer section
Kristen leading a cheer section

There was so much to see out on this course and the crowd support and the neighborhood support was amazing. There weren’t many quiet stretches along the course. It was crowded but it never really felt quiet. So many people out there. It helps when there is great weather to begin with.

Towards the end of the race it was heating up. The sun was shining and there was not much shade. Neither of us struggled with this but judging from our time we were not pushing it. Not our slowest time as we still seem to take more time out on the course during the Walt Disney World Marathon but an equal number of unique photo stops for sure.

As we headed up Santa Monica Boulevard towards the pier at the end of the race I can truly say that we enjoyed our time out on the course. It was not a matter of wishing the finish line were closer. It was great out there. A wonderful medal and a memorable experience.

Such a fun experience and a great medal
Such a fun experience and a great medal
Such a fun experience and a great medal
Such a fun experience and a great medal
Such a fun experience and a great medal

It was however a longer than anticipated walk back to the parking lot where we had arrived several hours earlier. We stopped at a Starbucks on our way to the car for a quick refreshment and some much-needed air conditioning before returning to our hotel for a quick shower and more sightseeing. We spent the afternoon driving up the Pacific Coast Highway to Malibu where we had a celebratory dinner by the beach. Cannot beat that for a post marathon celebration.

Relaxing in Malibu after a rewarding day
Relaxing in Malibu after a rewarding day

The next day we had a late night flight so we had a relaxing morning. My wife had thought ahead and booked us massages for after the race. I usually like a deep tissue massage but I was discouraged of this notion by the masseuse for the day after a marathon. She was probably right. We then met up again with cousin Paul and his wife Evelyn for a nice long brunch before taking our sweet time of driving back to spend the rest of the day walking along the beach in Santa Monica before heading off to the airport for the red eye back to Philadelphia…where we could finally get that sleep we needed.

Making the most of our last few hours on the West Coast
Making the most of our last few hours on the West Coast

Here is the link to the video I made of the race. It was my first attempt at making a recap video so you may have to cut me some slack. Hope you enjoy it.

Thank you for reading.

2018 Walt Disney World Marathon Weekend – recap

Hey…remember that big race weekend back in January that I was going on about for months and months.  Well it happened… This is me trying to catch up and recap the weekend.  Apologies for being AWOL for a few months (I haven’t posted anything since my November recap). Life is great, work is busy, my kids are awesome and involved in so many extra curricular activities that I just haven’t found the time to sit and get to the blog for a while. My other impetus for catching up is that I have another marathon in just under 3 weeks and I’d better recap the last one before I think about the next one.

So here goes…

Our weekend started earlier than anticipated. We were closely monitoring the weather forecasts here in the northeast. Snow was predicted late Wednesday night into Thursday morning. We were due out early on Thursday and were a little anxious. A work colleague suggested I call our airline and see if we could change our flights due to the weather. Luckily we were able to do so and move our hotel reservation from Philadelphia International Airport to Orlando International Airport. We made it to the hotel around midnight but we at least got there. Phew.

The plus side was that we were able to get a free shuttle to and from the airport hotel and were able to catch our Magical Express to our resort (Port Orleans – French Quarter) around 9am on the Thursday when we didn’t really plan on arriving until early afternoon. We got an extra half day of time in the Magic Kingdom and we decided to make the most of it.

As none of our FastPasses were available until around 3pm we looked around for some rides where the lines were reasonable. I think we caught the last week of winter break from some of the southern schools. The park was heaving. We were able to get on a couple of rides (Buzz Lightyear Space Ranger Spin and Carousel of Progress) when I suggested the Tomorrowland Transit Authority (People Mover). I like this ride. My wife does not. This did not improve when the ride broke down in Space Mountain…in the dark. She was not amused. We were eventually evacuated off the ride by some Cast Members and as we excited they gave us a free FastPass for any ride in the park that day. Now she was happy.

On the TTA…

…off the TTA

As we excited the ride we tried to catch the Festival of Fantasy Parade which was washed out by rain the last time we were here. This would be our first time seeing it. As we arrived at a viewing spot, the family in front of us got up to leave and offered us their place. Front row right at the hub. So far the bonus day was working out. We even skipped a 75 minute wait for the Haunted Mansion with our extra FastPasses.  Awesome. We even got to ride Splash Mountain…some of us twice. It is never open when we visit during marathon weekend so this was a first time for all of us. For real!!! In all my years coming here back to 1981 I don’t think I have ever been on that ride. A new family favorite for sure.

Awesome bonus FastPass

We just saw the cost of our vacation!!!

It was a cold day in the Park. I haven’t been down here in weather this cold. We were all wearing hats, gloves and coats. Weird to be so dressed up for a day at Walt Disney World. After a nice fun dinner at Skippers Canteen and a ride on the ‘Jingle’ not ‘Jungle’ Cruise (another first time experience), a ride on the Seven Dwarfs Mine Train and a view of the new firework show, we headed back to our resort for a relatively early night. It had been a long day but a bonus one at that. Tomorrow was Expo Day and the boys were going to run the Mickey Mile.

A cold but fun day at the Magic Kingdom

As we were staying a host resort we were able to utilize the race transportation. Buses ran fairly regularly to the ESPN Wide World of Sports for the expo. As our resort was the first stop for all the buses we were fortunate that we never had to worry about there being enough seats on the bus and waiting for the next bus to come along. A huge advantage of staying at French Quarter (there was only one bus stop for this resort).  We arrived at the expo and went over to the Field House to pick up our bibs and race shirts as well as the boys race bibs. This was our first return to a runDisney race since 2015 and we were surprised to see how things had changed. All the runDisney merchandise was in the same building on the lower floor so we spent some time (and money) there before heading over to the fields for the start of the kids mile races.  I’m really proud of my kids. They both did a solid job running the mile and their times were pretty decent too. It was a far cry from their first runDisney races back in 2012.

Arriving at Wide World of Sports for the expo

At the Field House for the bib pickup

The boys are all set for the races

Heading to the start line

They did it!!!

This was 6 years earlier at our first runDisney weekend

After the kids races we headed into the general expo. We were in and out of there relatively quickly as we didn’t see much of anything we really needed and wanted to spend our time with the boys in the park (as they had been incredibly patient so far…we didn’t want to lose that!!!)

As there were no direct buses to EPCOT (our park of choice for the day) we decided to take a bus over to the Beach Club and walk to the International Gateway entrance in World Showcase. It was a nice cool afternoon and we had a great time wandering around the park. We stopped for an early dinner at Via Napoli (another family first this trip) for a night of carb loading and later got a prime spot for the Illuminations fireworks before heading back for a relatively early night.

My wife and I were keenly watching the weather forecast for the morning. Although we had escaped the snow back up in the northeast we hadn’t entirely escaped the cold temperatures. It was time for the original running gear to be jettisoned in place of the warm running gear that we threw in to our suitcases as we got closer to race weekend.

We were up bright and early (too early if you ask my wife…always) and got our running gear/costumes on for our first event of this weekend, the Half Marathon. It was a pretty short bus ride to the start line and we were there early enough to grab a character photo with Minnie Mouse before meeting up for a photo opportunity with our friends from Team Shenanigans.

With Minnie and previewing our Star Wars costumes for the Half Marathon

Team Shenanigans at the Half Marathon

I knew from what I had been reading that they were using a new wave corral system for the race start and the announcers seemed to really emphasize getting to the corrals early to try to be up front. From what I had read the corrals now had multiple waves within them. We made our way over early and found a good place to sit down and wrap up ourselves in space blankets and towels to keep warm. It was quite a wait as we were there so early but luckily we were up front and once the race started we didn’t have to wait around too long.

Trying to stay warm during our wait in the corral

Soon enough we were off and making our way down the familiar route towards the Magic Kingdom. Although it had been 3 years since we last ran here we pretty much were familiar with the route. After all, this was our 4th runDisney Half Marathon. We made our usual stops on the way to the Magic Kingdom (noticing that they were missing the Black Pearl pirate ship photo stop) and headed up towards the park. One big (huge, enormous and massively welcome) change was that when we approached the Magic Kingdom this year, instead of running to the right of the entrance and entering Main Street from off stage, we ran right in through the park entrance. I LOVED IT!!!!!

Our usual stop on the way to the parking lots to the Magic Kingdom

Our first character stop on the course – Wreck-It Ralph and Venellope

At the entrance to the park

At the entrance to the park with the dedication plaque

Finally in the park. Back where we belong.

Truly the best part about these races. Running up Main Street towards the castle.

Some fun stops along the way – The Queen of Hearts and the White Rabbit

Some fun stops along the way – The Great Goofini

Some fun stops along the way – Sebastian

Some fun stops along he way – Suzy and Pearla

Running through Fantasy Land

Our Castle shot – these aren’t the droids you’re looking for

On our way back to EPCOT with another ‘Power Couple’

Arriving in Future World

Heading to the finish line

We did it! The Half Marathon and first part of the Goofy Race and a Half Challenge is done.

It was still quite cold by the time we finished the race and we were on the clock for the baby sitter so we didn’t hang around long at the finish line. Instead we headed back to the resort, grabbed some breakfast on the way to our room and arrived just as our youngest was waking up. Our eldest was still fast asleep. That was the easiest money the baby sitter we hired had ever earned…unless you count the part where she had to be at our room by 3am.

We quickly got showered and dressed and made our way over to Hollywood Studios. We were all pumped to get on with our day and see all the Star Wars stuff and meet the Guardians of the Galaxy….well, the boys were. My wife kind of fell asleep while waiting for the bus!!!

Zzzzzz…. She will hate me for this picture being on the blog

When we arrived in the park we had some photos taken by one of the PhotoPass photographers. He was impressed by all of our medals and made us do these poses with them.

My boys were in their element. All the Star Wars activities, shows and parades. They loved it. Me too.

The highlight of the day for my boys was meeting Baby Groot from the Guardians of the Galaxy.

We are Groot

After a fun afternoon we stayed to watch the Star Wars fireworks. Not before I took part of my routine night before a marathon ritual….a cookie (and a great one) as well as my boys who were still telling me they ran the mile.

Yeah, yeah….the mile

Then it was back to the resort to try and get some sleep before the big day. Marathon Sunday.

It was up early again…for the babysitter as she met us at our hotel room for a second day at 3am. We told here our expected ETA based upon the last time we ran the Walt Disney World Marathon together. We are both much faster runners but at Disney we take our time and soak up the fun. Based upon past times we told her we would be back for 11am. We then headed down to the lobby for the bus to the race.

I’ll drop you a little clue here as to our costume theme for this race.

It’s not easy being green

Unlike yesterday’s ride which seemed to be smooth and fairly speedy, we stopped at every bus stop along the route. Early on the seats were all filled and the driver just seemed to be stopping to tell people to take the next bus. Once we were out of the resort we hit traffic. We later found out that a car had broken down and was blocking a lane. Once we arrived we didn’t have much time to wait around. We were too late for another team meet up. We swooped quickly by the remaining Team Shenanigans runners who were waiting to go to later corrals. I stopped to say hello and wish our friend Sandy good luck on her first marathon and then headed straight for the corrals.

Like yesterday we were able to get up front in our corral but it was still fairly cold to start and we were again glad for our towels and space blankets while we sat waiting for the race to get started. It wasn’t too long before we were up and out of our corrals and heading into what was my wife’s 10th marathon and my 20th marathon. Finally, after all this time and training we were on our way.

A fun billboard just past the starting line

As was the case yesterday, we followed the same route as before but this time they had changed up all the characters. Gone were the days of us saying “We will get that tomorrow” on the Saturday or “We’ve already stopped before” on the Sunday. A nice touch. This was after all the 25th Anniversary Marathon so there must have been some extra planning involved in setting up this years event.

Almost there

We have our Rainbow Connection

Launchpad and Scrooge McDuck

The Evil Queen from Snow White

We headed up to the Magic Kingdom and through the front entrance again (runDisney…please keep this as part of the race in future) and from there we spent what seemed like forever enjoying the park. Our mile splits up to this point were something akin to 10 minute miles until we hit the park and then we started having close to 20 minute miles for our time in the park.  Totally worth it!!

Main Street. My happiest place in the Happiest Place

With the Tweedles and the White Rabbit

With Lady Tremaine, Anastasia and Drizella

The nice Castle photo

A pretty darned impressive Castle photo

Once we were through the Magic Kingdom came the long road towards Animal Kingdom up through cone alley and what seemed liked one of the longest out and backs that I can remember. It was definitely warming up which was good. It wasn’t hot by any means but comfortable running weather.

Carl, Russell and Doug from ‘Up’

With Clarabelle as we approached the Animal Kingdom

Once we hit Animal Kingdom we knew we were almost half way. We had made it past the water treatment facility too which was a major plus! We were now close to 3 hours for our first half. Oops. How much was that babysitter again? Oh well, we were having a boatload of fun.

The parking lot out of the Animal Kingdom is long and winding. That is always a tough little section as it appears to go on forever but we set off for our next location which would be around mile 17, the Wide World of Sports. On the way we soon came across our friend Laura, the ‘Chicken Hat Cheerer’. As always out there on the course being everyone’s best cheering squad and bringing plenty of supplies to share. Usually Laura is stationed between mile 20-21 but I believe she may have had a little run in with course security which led her to being stationed around mile 15. Not that we minded in the slightest.

A much needed lift at this point in the race

Our obligatory Haunted Mansion photo

There is so much construction around Walt Disney World right now but Disney managed to make the best of it. Archeologist Pluto was out there digging up dinosaur bones.

Usually the Wide World of Sports is one of the hardest parts of the race. It’s essentially a long twisty out and back. Yes, you do hit the track (for less than a full lap) and you get to run around the stadium, but there is not much else to look at usually. This year runDisney really pulled out the stops and made this less of a drag as they had plenty of character opportunities dotted around the grounds.

With our friend Goofy at the track

Minnie was waiting for us at the soccer fields

Mickey and Donald were waiting for us at the baseball stadium

In the outfield and rounding for home

After the Wide World of Sports its up and over the ramp towards Hollywood Studios. With so much construction we were ‘blink and you miss it’ time in the park. As we entered they were giving out the candy (always a favorite part of the race). I took a bag of Malteasers to stick with my British roots. One huge surprise backstage was the chance to meet up with Oswald. I thought he only appeared on the West Coast at Disneyland. This is one of my eldest’s favorite characters so we had to stop for a photo with him.

Feeling ‘Lucky’ with Oswald

And before you knew it we were through Hollywood Studios and out onto the walkway to the Boardwalk and to the entrance to World Showcase.

We had just over a mile to go. It was now a journey around the world to reach Future World. As we entered I sent a quick text message to members of Team Shenanigans who were waiting inside the Mexico Pavilion. A few weeks earlier I had sent over my PayPal payment the moment someone had the brilliant idea of setting up a margarita stop in Mexico at the end of mile 25 and just before entering Future World. I have some great team mates.

Cheers from Mexico

Running through World Showcase

We made it to Future World

We had to stop to say hello to the choir at Mile 26

We did it!!! Marathon number 10 and number 20!!!!!

Mission Accomplished

We did it. Just under 6 hours. 5:57 to be precise. Slowest but probably most fun marathon to date.

What a beautiful and fun day

Yeah We Did!!

Another marathon (my 5th Disney and my wife’s 3rd Disney marathon) and another Goofy Challenge (my 4th and my wife’s 2nd). Lots of miles and lots of memories.

Not much chance to sit around for recovery. We had a very expensive baby sitter on the clock.

As a special surprise at the finish line, and to celebrate the 25th Anniversary of the Walt Disney World Marathon, each finisher was awarded a special pair of Mickey Ears.

Magical Mickey Ears

Heading out to celebrate the marathon

After a quick shower we headed out to celebrate the rest of the day at the Animal Kingdom where we got to experience the land of Pandora together. Lots of fun (and desserts) that evening. Upon returning back to our resort I stopped by the front desk to ask a few questions and pick up these special celebration buttons for us all.

This was the longest trip to Walt Disney World we had taken with the boys. We stayed an extra couple of days after the race and made the most use of our park time. We spent our post race day in EPCOT and finished as always with our last day in the Magic Kingdom.

While we were in EPCOT I headed to Mouse Gears to get our new marathon ears embroidered to remember this weekend.

On our last day we did something that we have never really had the opportunity to do before when the boys were much younger. We arrived before the park opened and got in early. We stayed from park open to park close. We rode the most rides in one day we had ever ridden and finished our goal of riding all the mountains at Walt Disney World (Splash, Thunder, Space and Everest). No one skipped any rides except for Tower of Terror…but my eldest rode that twice in a row!

We were early enough to get some great family photos in front of the castle before the crowds came for the day. We also finally got our boys to do a fairly decent jump shot. A truly memorable race weekend and family vacation.

We left with many happy memories. This was a great marathon weekend for all of us.

Thank you for reading and staying in touch with the blog. Apologies again that this is so late.

Closing out the park

November 2017 – Month in review

November 2017 – Garmin Connect

This month the focus for me was preparing for the Philadelphia Marathon on November 19. I had just come off one of my biggest months of training in October. With the way the calendar fell I had three 50 mile weeks. The taper was most welcome. Together with the post marathon recovery which took longer than usual this was one of the smaller mileage months for me.

I still managed to churn out 127 miles (26.2 of which was the Philadelphia Marathon).

The weekend after the Philadelphia Marathon was Thanksgiving so I had a little extra time in the mornings to work out. It’s nice to be running in daylight at this time of year. It doesn’t happen much.

My wife and I had a good showing at the annual Bucks County Road Runners Thanksgiving 5 miler. This was our second fastest time for this event which we have run dating back to 2010. It was a cold morning but the sun was out and we made the most of the fine conditions to put the pedal down. I was more than pleased that I was feeling normal the morning of the race as I was feeling sore longer than normal after the marathon. Also…this race had pie!!!

Nice sunny day for our run around the park

Some solid splits for this run

They had pie

With that being done it was back to training for the upcoming Walt Disney World Goofy Challenge. This would be my first ‘Philly to Goofy’ (*) training cycle since 2014. I started doing the weekend back to back runs with doubling the distance of the Saturday runs on the Sunday. Only 7 weeks between Philly and Disney this time around.

My big ‘Black Friday’ purchase this year was to register both my wife and myself for the 2018 Philadelphia Marathon. That sets up quite a busy year for me in 2018 if you add to that the Delaware Marathon that I signed up for at the expo a week earlier.

2018 is looking like this for me now:

January – Walt Disney World Goofy Challenge

April – Delaware Marathon

July – New Jersey State Triathlon – Olympic Distance

November – New York City Marathon

November – Philadelphia Marathon

Thank you for reading.

(*) This is where the blog’s name comes from. Running the Philadelphia Marathon and then running the Goofy Challenge a few weeks later – Philly to Goofy – Philly2Goofy 🙂

2017 Philadelphia Marathon – Race recap

On Sunday 19th November I participated in my sixth Philadelphia Marathon. I have come quite a way since my very first marathon also in Philadelphia in 2011. This race would take my total number of marathons to 19 setting the stage for number 20 in January at Walt Disney World. Trying not to get ahead of myself though, I’d like to focus on my experience for this race.

Last year the running of the Philadelphia Marathon transferred hands from the City of Philadelphia to the race team that hosts the Broad Street Run. They made some changes to the weekend, some welcomed and some less so. One of the changes was to split the half and the full races into separate days and different courses. They also created a challenge event for those that participated in both races, the ‘Rocky Challenge’. If you follow my recap from last year you can read how that unfolded.

This year the race organizers announced the challenge (rebranded the ‘Liberty Bell Challenge’) at the time of registration. Seeing as I will be running a 39.3 mile event at Walt Disney World in January I decided that I would focus on just the marathon this time around. I do occasionally need to get some sleep.

As always, I was getting excited prior to race day as I followed my friends running the Chicago Marathon, the Marine Corps Marathon and the New York City Marathon in the weeks leading up to Philly. I was just waiting for it to be my turn. Soon enough though the weekend rolled around.

I visited the expo on Friday evening. It was again held at the Philadelphia Convention Center in Center City. Packet pickup was fairly straight forward. I was only doing the marathon this year but it looked like they were pretty organized for the challenge runners unlike last year when no one seemed to know what I was talking about.

Arriving at the Convention Center

Expo time

Once I picked up my race bib and shirt I went back to a table I had passed on my way to packet pick up to do a quick meet and greet with Bill Rodgers who was signing copies of his new book. I asked him to sign my bib as I had met him previously but didn’t think to ask him for his signature. I hoped that having a four time Boston Marathon and four time New York City Marathon winner and former Olympian sign my bib would automatically make me run faster…

Bib pick was well organized

Bib pick was well organized

Bib pickup was fairly easy

Once I had finished meeting Bill (he’s a talker 🙂 ) I headed over to the expo and to the race merchandise area. As per prior year it was well stocked and divided up into men’s and women’s sections. I made my purchase of a puffer vest that I had looked at the prior year and passed on and also a new beanie. I was happy with my purchases but even happier about the bag that they provided for my new gear. Okay, maybe I get too excited by race expos but I thought that if they are going to take the time to provide logo bags then they might enhance the running experience on the day. We shall see.

Meeting Bill Rodgers

Fingers crossed this brings me good luck

At the expo they had the Lexus pace car on display. It was covered with the names of all the runners. This was not an alphabetical list so after a few minutes of looking for my name I gave up. I’m sure it was somewhere on there. Why would it not be alphabetical????

Seriously…not alphabetical?

Seriously…not alphabetical?

I didn’t make any major purchases at the expo…unless you count registering for another marathon. Yup, I’m now registered for the 2018 Delaware Marathon in late April. I had my eye on this as I can drive there on the day and I was looking for a spring race. They were offering a discount so I went for it. Looks like another winter training plan for me. With no other merchandise jumping out at me and no other needs or accessories that were required I headed home for an early night and hopefully a restful weekend.

Something different

My next race…after my next race

What was planned to be a restful day came to a grinding halt early Saturday afternoon. While I was driving the family to the car dealership so my wife could do some test drives, I had a major cramp in my left calf. It came from nowhere and was extremely painful. I couldn’t walk for a good amount of time and I was seriously concerned. I reached out to my runner friends for advice and they all told me to hydrate. I started pounding water for the next couple of hours to which came the next bit of advice…don’t drink just water, electrolytes…you need electrolytes. So at this point I was heading home and started taking salt tabs every 30 minutes or so as I tried to massage out my calf. Then I was told to take an Epsom salt bath which I did and followed that up with a hot shower. Next up, icy hot applied to the area and then a calf sleeve. Desperate….you betcha!!!!

Well, with nothing more that I could do I headed to bed. Hoping that the rain that had been coming down all afternoon would give way to some better weather (spoiler alert – it didn’t) and that I would get a good night’s sleep so that I would wake up rested, relaxed and hopefully with a seemingly normal feeling calf muscle.

All set and ready for the next day

….so at 3am when my neighbors were still partying I sat up in bed and decided then and there that I was buying my eldest a full drum kit when he needed it…

My alarm went off around 4am. I started to get ready, very bleary eyed, listening to the wind and rain outside the window and feeling my calf muscle still sore and tight. I guess my goal time was out for the day.

I headed downtown hoping to get to my regular parking lot before they started blocking off the roads and was able to make good time. It was still raining while I was driving down and also as I walked to the race staging area holding onto my rain poncho and praying it didn’t fly away. Thankfully as the morning started to break the rain stopped. There was still a very strong wind and it was cold but at least the rain had stopped. That was something.

Heading to the race start and clinging onto my poncho so it wouldn’t fly away

Unfortunately due to the amount of rain which had been falling steadily since Saturday afternoon the ground was saturated. It was pooled with water and muddy in many areas. I met up with a colleague who was also running and we headed to bag check together. In past years (each of the 5 previous times I have run this race) bag check is in Eakin’s Oval itself on the paved area. This year they had moved it off to the side of Eakins Oval. While the trucks were on the street you could only access this by walking across the grass…which happened to be almost ankle deep with wet mud in places. Another annoying aspect of the bag check was that it wasn’t sorted by bib number nor alphabetically, it was a first come first served process. Everyone went to the first truck they saw which was out of the way of the soggy ground. This became a mad crowd surge as people started hearing the National Anthem being sung. We had only a few minutes to get to our corrals before our waves went off and people were still queueing up to check their bags.  Crazy. What a mess. I ended up with a tag from truck 2 and my bag was put on truck 3. I’d have to hope that they sorted the bags out before I got back at the end of the race.

A grey morning start at the corral

The race had already started before I made it to my corral but my corral had not yet been released. It was a mad dash but I made it. Talk about an adrenaline rush. It was crazy. Although the rain had cleared it was still cloudy. The temperatures were in the high 40s but with winds of 25mph+ and gusting well above that the temperatures felt much colder.

Once my corral was released and we were underway I kept up with the pack of runners around me. I had set my goal time to sub 3:50 hours and a secondary goal of 4:00 hours. This meant running a pace in the mid 8:30 minutes/mile. As we were running down towards Delaware Avenue (around mile 2) a gust of wind blew as we passed by a gap in the buildings and everyone moved sideways. Wow. It was strong. I was able to maintain a pace between 8:25-8:30 minutes/mile for the first 7 miles or so despite the headwind but as I ran towards Chestnut Street around the old city I felt my calf tweak again and I knew at that time I would have to back off or at least do something different.

I had not been doing any run/walk intervals during races since running the Mohwak Hudson Marathon back in 2016. With the sudden jolt to my left calf I decided to minimize any pain/damage and go back to my old intervals. My Garmin watch still had alerts as I had never turned them off so I just settled into a 4:00/0:30 minutes/mile run/walk ratio so that I could keep my momentum going. This slowed my pace a little but not considerably so I was able to keep moving at a decent pace. My sub 3:50 may be out of reach but I felt good for a sub 4:00 hour (or close to it).

Running up Chestnut Street towards Drexel University was like a 2 mile wind tunnel. All around me people were losing hats/visors. I tightened my hat on my head and just pushed into the wind waiting for a break when we turned the corner up towards Fairmount Park.  The wind was pretty brutal.

The sun was out though so it was still an enjoyable run. The crowds were out to cheer despite the cold and the wind. That is one of the best things about the Philadelphia Marathon. The crowd support for the first 10 miles is great. It thins out a lot in Fairmount Park until you get back to the Art Museum around mile 14 and then thins again until you hit Manyunk. Still, the crowds are one factor in this race that keeps me coming back again and again.

The run through Fairmount Park was fine (once you get beyond the big hill up to Memorial Hall) and I’m glad we get to spend more time in the park so that we can avoid the old out and back that used to be around mile 17. This however prevents you from hitting the half way mark at the Art Museum as used to be the case when the Half and Full marathon was run on the same day. We hit the Art Museum around mile 14 since they changed the course and I was there just in time to see the race leaders making their way up the finish line. Yup, they were 12 full miles ahead of me…and running in singlets in this weather.

The slog…sorry, run…up to Manyunk along Kelly Drive is scenic but into wind is just tough. Very tough. There is no shelter from the wind the whole time you are running. The course is fairly flat but it felt like you were running up hill all the way as the wind was just relentless. Some of my friends behind me took pictures next to trees that had been snapped in the wind. Yes, I’m not exaggerating that the wind was strong.

At least when we entered Manyunk we were sheltered from the wind by the buildings. This also made it much warmer for those miles. The run through Manyunk is an out and back from mile 19 to 21. There is a slight uphill but with a break from the wind this didn’t seem too bad. I was slowing a little though. My pace had fallen off while running miles 14 to 19 into the head wind. I was probably not looking to make my 4:00 backup goal. My goal was to finish and do so with a smile.

So, thinking that if you are running into wind you would have it on your back on the way in would make sense…neh, all of a sudden you get a cross wind on the way back from mile 21 to 26 (insert face palm emoji here…) The run back was steady. I was just looking to finish at this point. My legs were aching more than usual for a marathon. I can really describe conditions as though you were running uphill the whole way because the wind was honestly that strong on the day.

I made it to the finish line in 4:08. Not my best time but again not my worst. I was very relieved to finish this one. As I was running the finisher chute there was a runner receiving emergency medical treatment just in front of the finish line. I saw someone go down just after they crossed the finish line. It was not an easy day. Still, marathon number 19 was in the books.

Another marathon finish in the books

Marathon #19 complete

I stopped for a large cup of hot coffee on my way home. I’d earned that for sure. Usually I’m pretty much up and about the afternoon of a marathon but I was cooked. I needed to rest up. I reviewed my running data and looked at my charts. Holy moly that was an effort today. My time in the highest heart rate zone was insane. 2:31 hours out of the 4:08 was almost at maximum effort. I wasn’t exaggerating when I said it was not an easy day.

24 ounces of pure gold

A little too much time in the high red zone

Interestingly enough, it took me a few extra days to recover from this race. I’m usually sore a day or two after a marathon but I was really struggling even by day 3. I finally was able to run properly just in time for our Thanksgiving Day run on the Thursday post race.

I told my wife I may be taking a break from Philly after this year, after all, I’m running the 2018 New York City Marathon next November. That was until Black Friday when I signed both my wife and myself up for what will be the 25th anniversary running of the Philadelphia Marathon. I’m a sucker for a special medal.

So, until next year…

 

 

 

 

January 2016 – Month in review

January 16

January 2016 – Nike+ Summary

My Nike + Summary shows 121 miles. There was no cycling or swimming this month. Not sure why but probably because of travel, weather and general fatigue and no races I took it rather easy. Still, managed to knock out 121 miles.

We had just returned from our Florida trip when I had to fly out to Arizona. I think the drive time from Florida to Pennsylvania and the transcontinental flying finally caught up with me combined with the change in temperatures (winter finally arrived) sending me to my basement treadmill for my runs.

I think the major ‘funk factor’ in this was the fact that this was the first Walt Disney World Marathon Weekend I have missed since 2012. I had to live vicariously through all my friends and fellow Mickey Milers team mates Facebook and Twitter posts. I was itching to be there so bad this year but the logistics of home life, work travel and also costs just made it an impossibility this year. Sad, but there will be other times. I’m focusing on my first half ironman triathlon distance this year so really cutting back on racing and focusing on the training plan…boring…but hopefully fruitful come July 🙂

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Trying my best to not feel left out…with my 2015 Half Marathon shirt and my extremely overpriced 2013 Marathon coffee cup

With the weather forcing me indoors I actually have the opportunity to try transitioning to Altra Zero Drop shoes. I would have liked to try this previously but there is a 3-6 week adpating period where you wear the shoes progressively more and more each run but switch back to your regular shoes mid-run. Generally when I am running outdoors I am not looking to carry a spare pair of shoes everywhere with me. Indoors at least I can put the shoes next to the treadmill and easily switch mid-run. We shall see how this goes. I am trying to transition  from my Brooks Adrenaline GTS shoe with a 12mm drop (from heel to toe) to the Altra Provision shoe with a 0mm drop. It will take time I’m sure and I will probably have a few strange aches and pains during transition. We shall see how this works out. So far I’ve managed to get up to 6 miles. A way to go if I’m going to be into these shoes before the New Jersey Marathon on May 1st. The key is to getting to the start line injury free. If it isn’t working out I’ll be running in the Adrenalines.

So, as I’m saying that I will be registering for less races, I did manage to sign up for 2 first time races for me this year. The first is the Philadelphia Phillies 5K race at Citizens Bank Park on March 26. I figure a 5K during the marathon training will be a good time to see how my speed is going. Not sure it will be a fast 5K given the nature of the race but I will see nearer the date. Also, I signed up for the Princeton Half Marathon in early November. My wife ran this race last year and I was really jealous of her ‘squirrel’ medal so it’s my turn this year! It’s in November after my triathlon season so I can get away with my previous comment about running less and concentrating on the triathlon 🙂

One day the squirrel will be mine...

One day the squirrel will be mine…

Oh, I almost forgot, I registered again for the Rutgers UNITE Half Marathon. It fits nicely into my training plan and it was a nice race for me last year.

My wife and I registered for the lottery for the New York Marathon. We will find out if we get in together in early March. I figure if either one of us gets in we should run it regardless of whether the other does or doesn’t. It is such a big race and the lottery is just that…a lottery. Who knows if we will get selected. It’s a big race but it’s definitely a bucket list one. I figure it’s a one and done type of race because of the size of the field and the logisitics of the weekend just sound a bit too much for me. I’m sure it will be fun and I am hoping that we both get in. I’ll let you know 🙂

Both my wife and I are in training for the New Jersey Marathon on May 1st. The weather has driven us both to the treadmill unfortunately. Looking forward to getting out whenever we can but making sure to be sensible and safe. No point in running in the cold and icy conditions if we don’t really have to. Better to be safe inside. The conditions in May will not be replicated in January that’s for sure.

We had the first big snow of the year…and it was big. On top of my long run that day (11 miles on the treadmill) I was outside shoveling snow for over 4 hours. Quite a workout but I prefer swimming and biking as my cross training!!!

My youngest in the snow. Reminiscent of Hoth...

My youngest in the snow. Reminiscent of the planet Hoth…I think he is looking for his tauntaun.

I hit another personal milestone this month as I made it past the 8,000 mile mark since I started recording my workouts back in September 2010.

January 19

I’d been running about 5-6 weeks using a ‘Couch to 5K’ program before I started logging my activities so this is pretty much from the beginning. So now I’m onto the next milestone. In that time I’ve completed 19 half marathons and 14 full marathons and countless other events. I’m feeling pretty proud of how far I’ve come. I think this is also going to be a big year for me and January was a good start to 2016’s adventures.

 

 

 

December 2015 – Month and Year in review

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

Dcember 2015 – Nike+ Summary

December 2015 – Nike+ Summary

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

2015 – Nike+ Summary

2015 – Nike+ Summary

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Nice to have a chance to run together

Nice to have a chance to run together

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

Ready to run

Ready to run

Running family

Running family

Discussing race strategy

Discussing race strategy

With a fellow Mickey Miler and a junior one

With a fellow Mickey Miler and a junior one

Reward for his 200 meter run

Reward for his 200 meter run

Making it look easy

Making it look easy in the 400 meters

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

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

Being out-sprinted by my wife

Being out-sprinted by my wife

Determination

Determination

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

2015 – Looking Back

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

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

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

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

2016 – Looking Forward

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

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

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

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

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

 

2015 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’

🙂