July 2016 – Month in review

July was a great month. I achieved things that a few years ago I never would have thought possible. Time for a quick recap.

July 2016 - Nike+ Summary

July 2016 – Nike+ Summary

My running mileage looks low this month compared to my usual months of training. Indeed it was probably my lowest training month of running in a long time. I did however more than make up for that in total distance with swimming and running. My Garmin data below shows total monthly mileage of just under 308 miles made up of 9.8 miles of swimming, 190.6 miles of biking and 106.8 miles of running.

july

July 2016 – Garmin Connect Summary

The first couple of weeks of the month were tapering into the event, focusing mainly on swim and bike (I think I’ve got the running thing down). I had such an amazing experience competing in and completing my first half iron distance (70.3 miles) triathlon at the HITS Hudson Valley Triathlon. You can read the race recap here. I followed this up just two weeks later with the New Jersey State Triathlon to complete my first Olympic distance triathlon which you can read about here.

With all this talk about triathlons I was invited to be a guest to talk about my transition into the sport for an episode of the Team Shenanigans Podcast. A great bunch of folks who I got to know through the Mickey Milers running team. You can hear the episode here.

On 4th July my family all participated in the Washington Crossing Revolutionary Run in Washington Crossing Park, PA. My Wife and Father in law ran the 10K and my boys and I ran the 1 mile fun run. It was a hot morning but we had fun and after some refreshments (donuts) we had a nice fun family afternoon at the pool in our development following by a nice BBQ at home with the extended family. A good holiday weekend.

 

Happy 4th of July from The Running Crew

Happy 4th of July from The Running Crew

Mission Accomplished.

Mission Accomplished.

Later in the month I got to enjoy my Fathers Day present, Paul McCartney in concert at Citizens Bank Park in Philadelphia. Awesome!

Thank you Sir Paul

Thank you Sir Paul

So yes, July was a good month. I also have some new hardware on my office desk. Well earned. Makes me smile every time I look at it.

Some new desk hardware

Some new desk hardware

I know this recap is a little late (hey, it’s still not September) so thanks for hanging in there with me and thanks for reading.

 

September 2015 – Month in review

Septmber 2015 – Nike+ Summary

September 2015 – Nike+ Summary

Another busy month. According to my Nike app I ran 143 miles and my MapMyFitness calendar showed I had a total of 207 miles (143 miles running, 62 miles cycling and 2 miles swimming). 

September - Map My Fitness

September – Map My Fitness

This month included the Hightstown Triathlon, my 3rd(ish) and last triathlon of the year and also the last few weeks of training for the Marine Corps Marathon so plenty of training during the month in preparation.

Fall definitely made an appearance during the month but luckily it was still fairly warm during the triathlon so I was able to enjoy the last days of summer. Our boys went back to school, my youngest is now in Kindergarten so both boys are together again at the local elementary school.

My two guys heading into school together

My two guys heading into school together

Also, as he has now moved up to Kindergarten, he is now at Sunday school every week vs every other week like last year. This allowed my wife and I to have 3 hours together on Sunday mornings so we were able to get some marathon training in together which was a great as we probably hadn’t had a chance to run together as a couple since the Pittsburgh Marathon back in May.

Nice opportunity to get out on the trail together

Nice opportunity to get out on the trail together

We’ve been taking the opportunity to get some of the long runs in along the Delaware Canal as it is fairly flat but very close to where we take the kids for Sunday school so we can save some time. It’s been great running there as the temperatures have cooled. We changed our route up a bit this year and crossed over the Delaware River at Washington’s Crossing so we ran both on the Pennsylvania side and the New Jersey side. Just to mix things up. On one of the times we were running together we crossed back to the PA side and saw a group of Revolutionary War re-enactors walking around Washington Crossing Park. We got a bit of a surprise when they started shooting off muskets and it didn’t really help when we ran through the park and my wife pointed out to them that I was British…thanks Babe, appreciate that.

IMG_0924

The British are running...the British are running...

The British are running…the British are running…

Work is ramping up again so I am back to traveling for a while and finding some time to squeeze my training in. I find fitting the swim training in a bit more difficult as I’m not close to my gym but I did manage to find an LA Fitness near the hotel in Atlanta to allow me to get a swim day in before the triathlon. My triathlon races are done for now for this year and once I am back home during the winter months I can ramp that up again with plans for next year.

So we end the month just a few weeks away from our big race of the year, the Marine Corps Marathon. My wife and I are really looking forward to running this together. We will be travelling down without the boys this time around as it is going to be a pretty quick trip. I definitely want to take them next summer to visit the museums and enjoy the sites. That will be a fun vacation. We can scope it all out as we are running along the route.

My upcoming race calendar should now be set through the end of the year (perhaps):

October 25 – Marine Corps Marathon (Washington, DC) – This will be our first time running this event.

October 31 – Rock and Roll Philadelphia Half Marathon – I ran this event on my own in 2012 and as a couple in 2013 and 2014.

November 1 – Cooper Norcross Run the Bridge (Camden, NJ) – I ran this event for the first time in 2013.

November 22 – Philadelphia Marathon – In 2011 this was my first marathon and also the first where I broke 4 hours in 2012. My wife and I ran this together in 2013.

November 26 – Bucks County Road Runners Thanksgiving 5 Miler (Langhorne, PA) – We try to run this every year (since we started running) and only missed it last year by being out of town. Here is my last recap of that race.

Looking forward to October and beyond. Thank you for reading.

Washington Crossing Revolutionary Run 10K – Race recap

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On July 4th this year I signed up on the day and took part in the Washington’s Crossing Revolutionary Run 10K. This was quite a change for me as I usually don’t do many races last minute. I’m quite the planner when it comes to my race activities (see here). This is also the location where I did the Bucks County Duathlon and the ‘Chasing The Unicorn’ Marathon.

On the day before the race I saw a message from a friend and Mickey Milers teammate saying he would be in the area for the weekend and was looking to see if anyone was interested in running this race. For the last few years we have always been away for the holiday weekend and in the years prior to that I wasn’t a runner so this race was never on my radar. So, my wife gave me the ok and I was all set to go. I mentioned it to my father in law at dinner the night before the race and he said he was interested in joining me. Ultimately my friend had a very long day in New York City and decided that he wasn’t going to be there so my father in law planned to go if the weather cooperated in the morning.

The race start was 8:30 am and was a 20 minute ride from my house so I got to sleep in a little. Hey, it was a holiday weekend. The rain early in the morning stopped around 6am and we decided to make a go of it. We arrived early enough to register and saw that there were plenty of same day participants. The parking was down the street from the start/finish area in Washington Crossing Historic Park but was easily walkable. It was a much more crowded event than I had anticipated.

As it was July 4th I was prepared with my INKnBURN ‘Sam’ Tech Shirt. Yes, as long as I kept my mouth shut, no-one would be the wiser that this incarnation of Uncle Sam was originally from Great Britain. I guess there is some irony in me wearing the shirt. Anyway, I was there representing all naturalized US citizens so I could get away with it….just. I don’t think my father in law was too impressed but I think he knows me well enough now that nothing surprises him anymore 🙂

Uncle Sam...or Sam I Am?

Uncle Sam…or Sam I Am?

Who wore it best?

Who wore it best?

Yes...he's probable pretending he doesn't know me right now

Yes…he’s probable pretending he doesn’t know me right now

There were 3 races, a 1 mile fun run, a 5K and a 10K. All were timed at separate intervals of 15 minutes between each start so we had time as the earlier races moved to their designated points.

We didn’t see the 1 mile fun run go off but we headed to our designated starting line (the one spray painted on the road outside the park) and waited in the corral/crowd with everyone else.

The 5K crowd was lined up just ahead of us.

The 5K crowd was lined up just ahead of us

We waited another 15 mnutes at the 10K start before it was our turn

We waited another 15 mnutes at the 10K start before it was our turn

Ready to go

Ready to go

So…when you are at Washington’s Crossing Historic Park on July 4th you tend to see a lot of Revolutionary War reenactors and today was no different. We were actually lined up next to an area where they were setting up a period style outdoor camp for later in the day. The race director gave out instructions for the 5K ahead of us and said to wait for the ‘go’. He didn’t mention what the ‘go’ signal was, or if he did we didn’t hear him. We were chatting away in the corral when there was the most incredibly sharp BANG! Yes, the starting gun was a Revolutionary period musket. We both jumped as we were not expecting that. Okay, we knew what the ‘go’ was now for the 10K but again where we were in the crowd for the 10K start we didn’t hear the race director’s instructions for our turn to go and again we were caught off guard when the musket was fired again. I can only imagine how my heart rate spiked at that point. Funny though. You’d have thought we would have been a little more aware. Maybe my shirt was distracting people 😉

The course itself took a small loop inside the park and then there was an out and back for about 5 miles on River Road (Pennsylvania side) which was closed off for the occassion follwed by another half mile loop around through the park to the finish line. It was a fairly flat course with the only elevation towards the turnaround. There were adequate water stations on the course which was good for it is was a hot and humid morning. For the 10K I wore my daily use water belt so I didn’t really have to stop as I had an 8 ounce bottle with me.

10K course along the Delaware River (Pennsylvania side)

10K course along the Delaware River

As I wasn’t really planning to run this event I had no expectations on time or any planned pace but I just went out and ran how I felt. Since I’ve been experiencing a back issue for the last couple of months (in fact I had already visited the chiropractor twice in the last three days) I wasn’t sure what I would feel like.

Well, I guess I just got all caught up in the excitement of it all. It was very crowded at the start so I skipped my usual Galloway run/walk interval but settled in soon after that and managed to hold a good pace. As the course was relatively flat it was nice and easy to maintain my pace. We ran in the shade of the trees alongside the river (although it was overcast) but it was still a hot and humid day.

stats

I managed to complete my 10K in a time of 52:34. Not close to my PR from a couple of years ago (I don’t run many 10K’s) but respectable enough for me based upon my recent form.

Race Result

Race Result

After the finish. The shirt was a hit with the spectators.

After the finish. The shirt was a hit with the spectators.

My father in law came in just after the hour mark and he seemed happy too, especially as it had suddenly become much warmer towards the end of the race.

My father in law in action

My father in law in action

I was pretty happy with the result and pretty happy with the slices of fresh watermelon at the finish. It was a sweet reward for a last minute race. After that we headed back home and spent the rest of the holiday with the family at the pool before catching some fireworks later in the day.

Hope you all had a very good 4th July holiday wherever and however you celebrated.

Thanks for reading.

 

‘Chasing the Unicorn’ Marathon race recap

Unicorn

Last Sunday I completed the ‘Chasing the Unicorn‘ Marathon along the Delaware Canal at Washington Crossing in PA. The good is that I completed the race, the bad, well let’s just get it out of the way, I missed my goal…by a lot. However, I’m not going to dwell too much on what turned out to be a great weekend anyway. In summary, it was one of my worst races but one of my best finishes. I’ll explain below.

I had signed up for this race based upon the fact that I PR’d earlier this year at the New Jersey Marathon and this included running the last 9 miles into what felt like a wind tunnel. I felt that I could do better. This race was created in 2013 by the Race Director of runBucks (Pat McCloskey) as a late summer chance for folks trying to qualify for the Boston Marathon in 2014. The unicorn is the symbol of the Boston Athletic Assocation.

Boston Athletic Assocation

Boston Athletic Assocation

You can read about my reasons for signing up in my previous post (‘Chasing The Unicorn…or at least trying‘). So with sights set on improving my PR I followed Hal Higdon’s Intermediate 2 plan. This was a bit of a step up from the Intermediate 1 plan that I typically use and had higher mileage and an extra 20 mile run in the program. Luckily it was a pretty mild summer in comparison to recent years so all those extra early morning miles were actually quite enjoyable.

Anyway, back to the weekend itself.

On the Saturday evening before the marathon runBucks hosted the Washington Crossing 15K which started at finished in the same place as the marathon on Sunday. My wife had run this race last year and she had registered for it again this year. My wife and I run a lot of races, some together and some separately. Mostly we run separately as one of us is always staying with the boys as these races are typically early mornings. This race started at 5pm on Saturday which meant that we could all attend the race as a family and my wife would have her own (very loud) cheering section.

So after a breakfast of Mickey Mouse waffles (the best way of carb loading) and a full day at Sesame Place with the family we headed to Washington Crossing to cheer my wife on as a family.

Sharing our signs with our favorite runner

Sharing our signs with our favorite runner

Asher's sign

Asher’s sign

Micah's sign

Micah’s sign

My sign

My sign

Ready to go

Ready to go

After the race had begun and everyone was off on their way the race director opened up the bib pick up for the marathon the next day so I headed over and grabbed my bib and race shirt. Then we sat around and waited for the first runners to come back in before taking our place along the finish line chute to cheer on Shari.

Waiting and watching the other runners

Waiting for Mommy and watching the other runners

Here she comes...

Here she comes…

Sprinting to the finish

Sprinting to the finish

...there she goes

…there she goes

My wife beat her time from last year, running a nice pace and pushing hard at the end.

Finish time. Good pace.

Finish time. Good pace.

Of course she was then mobbed by the boys who had been without her for over and hour and were probably tired of me and the waiting around!!!

Her best cheerleaders

Her best cheerleaders

Sharing her bling

Sharing her bling

There was a pavilion at the park where the race director had set up a pasta dinner buffet for post-race and also as a pre-race dinner for tomorrow so we headed over to eat. You would think my boys had were prepping for an ultra-marathon the next day…but they do have good appetites for sure. We even had to make a dessert stop on the way home (although I may have partaken in that too).

Once home we got the kids to bed and now it was my turn to prepare for the marathon the next morning. Based upon the forecast and my wife’s feedback from her race I began to wonder if I should carry water for the race. It was August and I have never run a marathon at this time of the year. The course itself being a double out and back on a narrow footpath meant that water stations were somewhat limited and my wife told me that crossing the two way traffic for water stops might be tricky. With that said, better to carry water and not use it than to run and need water. I decided to race wearing my Nathan Speed 2 hydration belt.

I set out my gear the night before as usual. I planned to wear my new Buddha shirt that I received from my recent INKnBURN grab bag. The grab bag is a selection of shirts that are either no longer made, one off samples or some of their current selection. You don’t know what you are going to get until the package arrives. I was very happy with my selection and opted for a nice bright color. Who says running gear has to be boring. It wasn’t as if I was going to win this race but perhaps I could make the ‘best dressed’ list 😉

'Flat Ian' the night before

‘Flat Ian’ the night before

It’s strange and nice to have a race local and be longer than a 5K. I got up around my usual time when I go out for a long run in the morning and got ready, grabbed my Powerbar and headed out to Washington Crossing. I had stated that I was shooting for a goal time of 3:50 or better. I wasn’t going to qualify for Boston but I knew this was perhaps a stretch goal having only just run 3:54 a few months earlier, but I had trained hard and felt good going into the race.

When I arrived I saw all these elite looking runners and was feeling a little intimidated at first. The night before they had announced that about 30% of the field planned to run 3:25 or better. Eek!!! What was I doing here??? But as I made my way from the parking lot to the starting area I saw other runners who were ’50 State’ runners and ‘Marathon Maniacs’ that looked like they were there for the ‘taking part’ and not just for the ‘BQ’. I also saw a few other runners wearing hydration belts and packs so I felt comfortable with my decision.

Ready to get started. Wearing my INKnBURN Buddha shirt.

Ready to get started. Wearing my INKnBURN Buddha shirt.

It was a cool morning and as we got into the corrals it actually started to rain lightly which was a little unexpected given the forecast. There were about 300 entrants into the race. They had a small early group start around 6:15am and this consisted of some walkers as well as those that may not meet the planned cut off time. The full race was to start at 7:15am. Each wave included about 50 runners. The waves would set off 30 seconds apart so being in wave 3 was just 90 seconds behind the leaders (at the start line).

The course itself was a double out-and-back loop along the Delaware Canal Towpath from Washington Crossing, PA to the turnaround point in New Hope, PA. The path itself is a soft easy trail of mostly crushed stone. It is narrow in places, almost single file, but mostly you could have two-way traffic so we got to see the leaders 2 to 3 times depending upon your pace. The elevation is minimal and for the most part the course is in the shade.

Here is the ‘Map My Run’ version of the course from the runBUCKS website.

Waiting in the corral for my wave.

Waiting in the corral for my wave.

Okay, to the race itself, and also the reason it has taken me over a week to actually post the write up to my blog.

With all the confidence in the world I knew in the back of my mind going in that this was a stretch goal for me. I had reduced my PR already this year by over 4 and a half minutes and I was looking to do the same. I don’t have a coach so I follow a plan and to all intents and purposes I am the one who manages my day to day training. With that in mind all I can say is that I learn a lot from experience. This was going to be one of those learning experiences but I didn’t know that when I started out…

As we started out I quickly went to the front of my wave so I could get ahead of folks early on and make sure that I could maintain my run/walk Galloway intervals (4:00/0:45) without interfering with a big pack of runners. I knew that the canal was narrow and this may be a difficult task (in fact I did have to walk through some messy places to get out the way of folks during the walking intervals) but I seemed to be maintaining my pace with the same folks for the first few miles. I used the same intervals that led to my PR back in late April.

During the first 6-7 miles it rained steadily. This was actually quite cooling and not heavy like the rain I had to run in during The Love Run earlier this year (although it was about 20 degrees warmer which helped). As you can see from my initial splits below I was on pace (actually a little faster) for the first 8 or so miles. To hit 3:50 according to my pace band I should be pacing at 8:47 per mile. I was feeling confident although I noticed that my heart rate was elevated in the normal range but not returning back as normal during the walk breaks. I tend to reach 160-170 bpm’s during the run and it usually hits 120-130 bpm’s at the end of the 45 second walk. This time I was still around 150 bpm’s after the end of each walk break. At this point I hadn’t taken any caffeine or a caffeine infused gels so I wasn’t sure why.

The first part of the race. So far so good.

The first part of the race. So far so good.

It wasn’t until around miles 9 to 10 when I started to feel a bit uncomfortable. I developed a pain in my side, not so much a stitch but an ache. It was a little strange but I couldn’t get rid of it even with a walk break and some water. Thankfully I had my water belt on as the water stations were a little sparse due to the course constraints around the turn around. By mile 11 I had an ache in my stomach which seemed to be more of a hunger pain than anything but I hadn’t done anything different in preparing for this marathon than in any of the other marathons I had run.

I reached the half way point at 1:55 so I was still only a minute or two back from my goal time but I knew I was slowing. The 13.1 mile turnaround was being managed by Tammy, a fellow ‘Mickey Miler’ who I had met with at the race the day before and was volunteering today. It helped to see a smiling face to cheer me at the halfway point. I was hurting at this point. I knew that my goal was probably not going to be met and pretty much made peace with that. It was a stretch goal after all but I figured if I could maintain a decent pace for the second half I might still PR for the day.

The hard part about an out and back, especially a double out and back, is that you know exactly how far you are in to the race and how far you have left to go. I wasn’t tempted to quit at the halfway point even though I could have. That was never on the cards for me. I knew whatever happened I still had to finish whether I made my goal, PR or was struggling.

I struggled for pretty much the second half of the race. It wasn’t a case of the wheels on the bus go round and round…they fell off. Here are my splits for the remainder of the race. You can see the decline in pace. It is quite a drop from 8:30s to 11:30s.

My second set of splits

My second set of splits – the wheels are coming loose 😦

My third set of splits - the wheels are completely off!!!

My third set of splits – the wheels are completely off!!!

I will be honest with you here. I never considered quitting, that’s just not what I want to do or set as an example to my boys. I did consider walking it in. I felt dreadful, empty inside, not in pain but not great. I just made sure I kept shuffling on. It wasn’t my best performance by any means. I set myself little goals in a hope to get to the finish. My heart rate was still high so I started to adjust my intervals to 3:45/1:00 and ultimately I ended up running 2:00/1:00 just to make sure I could keep going as the day got longer and the temperatures got warmer. My goals moved a little but I tried to make them attainable, for example, maintain the pace and break 4 hours. Once that goal was missed I set myself a goal of getting home in less than 4:10 and so on.

It was a little demoralizing but as I struggled in I noticed that no one was passing me. The faster runners had long finished (the winner ran 2:38) but I was still out there going forward. I knew I would eventually finish and as I had spoken with my wife the night before I expected to see my family at the finish line. I had told them that I hoped to be crossing the line around 11am (that would have been a 3:45 goal). My wife and kids were very patient as I missed that time by 30 minutes.

Finally, with about less than 2 miles to go I pushed as best I could. I could see the finish area across the park and buckled down to finish. As I was heading towards the finish line I saw that it was blocked by an ambulance. I younger runner had gone down less than half a mile before the finish line. My wife later told me that she was very worried it was me as she had expected me earlier and there was no news at the finish line other than a male runner had gone down. The EMS crew waved me around the ambulance and then I saw the finish line…and my family.

As I ran towards the finish line I heard my kids yelling out for me and jumping up and down with excitement. They had no clue as to how I was feeling at that point and there was not reason that they needed to know. As I ran up towards them they just beamed their big smiles at me. There was no one else coming in to finish at that time so I went over to the boys and told them to run in with me. I may have been feeling low over the last few miles but their being there for me totally lifted my spirits. We crossed the line as a family and I’ve never been happier to have finished a marathon. Goal or no goal, this finish is the best so far.

My best ever finish.

My best ever finish.

You cannot be that feeling. I may not have made my goal, I may not have PR’d, heck this was my slowest marathon (I ran 4:15), but at that moment it felt like my best. I totally got over any disappointment as this is a memory I will cherish. Having my boys run alongside me was absolutely awesome.

I made it through the finish line and got my medal and we headed over to grab the gear they had left when they joined me to run to the finish. I was beat. I think it shows.

I was cooked.

I was cooked. This is what a tough marathon feels like. Better to have experienced it and come out feeling positive.

So, I have two young boys who hadn’t seen me since the night before. I had no time to feel sorry for myself. They were all over me like a bee is to honey. They needed my attention more than I needed theirs so this was a very quick healing for any blues I may have been feeling at the time. No point in setting a bad example of being a misery in front of the kids. Get up, brush yourself down and know there are things more important than just PR’s. There will certainly be other races and many where my kids are not able to see me at the finish line. I aimed to savor my time with them. It really cheered me up. As you can see from the photo below I don’t look too disappointed. After all, I had still finished another marathon. That’s still something of an achievement.

Kids didn't even mind sweaty hugs. They were excited to see me after all.

Kids didn’t even mind sweaty hugs. They were excited to see me after all.

We headed over to the pavilion where there was food for the runners (and apparently for my offspring who again ate like they had run an ultra-marathon). The race director had catered well for runners both the night before and after the race today. In fact, I’ve never eaten French toast sticks as post race food before but they weren’t too bad. A little carbs with a little sugar. I was happy.

Post race food was provided. We ate well.

Post race food was provided. We ate well.

After a little food and some time to relax we started to head back to our cars so we could get home. After all it was still early enough in the day to have a full afternoon of activities with the family. By the time we headed out I had really forgotten how bad I had felt during the race and was pretty much over the fact that I had missed my goal. It was as simple as that. Over and done. Move on.

Happy to be with my family at the finish. The best cure for a bad race.

Happy to be with my family at the finish. The best cure for a bad race.

Still smiling. I still finished a marathon.

Still smiling. I still finished a marathon.

Okay...so not my best time.

Okay…so not my best time.

At the end of this all I can look back knowing that yes, this was a stretch goal, but I still finished another full marathon. I am not disappointed. In fact I may remember this as one of my favorites just because I got to share it with my family. I remember back in January when I finished the Dopey Challenge. As happy as I was to finish that event I remember feeling a little sad at the finish line area as I had no one to share it with at that very moment. The support makes all the difference between highs and lows.

Hard to be sad with support like this.

Hard to be sad with support like this.

I’m not sure I would rush back for this event again (unless I feel like redemption). This is not a negative on the race at all. I had a goal in mind and I didn’t meet it. I used this race for a specific purpose and as I train here a lot (for free) I’m not sure I would return unless I felt like it was the right opportunity. This race is designed as a BQ race specifically so it doesn’t have all the fancy bells and whistles of other big races. The race director did an outstanding job both days. I may return for the 15K next year as that will be fun to race.

The rest of the this year and into next I am running races with my wife. I’m not looking to PR in any of these but looking to have fun and enjoy the experiences together. I didn’t know what to say about my experience in this blog post (again, that is why it took me over a week), but now a week out from the race and reading what I have written above it really does have a silver lining. I may never catch that Unicorn but for me that is not the most important thing. I came late to running and every marathon finish line is a victory, fast or slow.

Thank you for reading.