Tag Archives: half-marathon

Race Report: St. Luke’s Half Marathon 2016-Older, Fatter, and Faster?

Last season I had to bail out on the St. Luke’s Half Marathon on the morning of due to a nasty stomach bug. I was looking forward to putting that behind me and getting another result here under my belt.

To make things a little more interesting, I also challenged a friend from work, who we’ll call “Stéphane” to protect his anonymity,  to this race. Stéphane is a much younger, lighter and naturally faster runner than I am, but I hoped that the longer distance may help level the playing field a bit. Also, the added competition may help motivate me to a new personal best time.

This race had given me my current standing half marathon PR back in 2010 with a time of 1:46:47 at a 8:06min/mi pace. I was also about 20 lbs lighter(165lbs) and 6 years younger(41) back then. Could I really beat this 6-year-old PR carrying another 20lbs and being over a half a decade older? I felt like I could, but who knows.

St. Luke's Half Marathon 2010 crop me bloody nipples

St. Luke’s Half Marathon 2010

The weather turned out to be perfect running weather. Sunny, clear and in the mid-50’s. I made it to the starting line without issue and with plenty of time. Stéphane and I chatted a bit as the 5k-ers took off. We were lined up pretty close to the front, so not to get caught up in the herd. I had got caught up in this the first time I did this race and suffered 2 of my slowest miles until I got past this group.

The gun went off and we were on our way. Stéphane was off and quickly out of site into the leading pack. I stayed back and tried to settle into a somewhat comfortable pace without getting caught up in the start of the race over-eagerness. I looked down at my Garmin and saw my pace was in the low 7 min/mi. Whoa…nelly!

My first mile was a 7:15 which is more like my 5k pace. I toned it down a bit and settled into around 7:30min/mi pace. While this seemed a bit fast for me, it was feeling right. I pretty much maintained this pace for the first half of the race, which runs along Martin Luther King Blvd and is mostly flat.

Heading out Martin Luther King Blvd – photo courtesy of MyEPEvents

As I approached the first turnaround near South 4th St., I saw my coach, Todd Wiley, flying by very close to the leaders of the race. He would end up finishing 6th overall!

I soon saw Stéphane, heading back as I went by the Parkettes Gymnastics gym. He was about a quarter mile ahead of me, but still not out of reach if he had issues later on. But could I keep up this pace and catch him.

I hit the 10k split timer just past the 15th street bridge which read 46:57! This would be a 10k PR time for me??? WTH?!

I made the left turn over the steep little bridge into the Lehigh Parkway. As I hit the gravel path things started to slow down a bit. Was the loose gravel stealing my energy or was it the steep  incline of the bridge and the little hill that followed taking the wind out of my sails? My legs were starting to rebel a bit.

As I reached the next two steep hills before the red covered bridge turnaround my pace was slowing to a 8:30 min/mi pace. I could feel the fatigue really starting to hurt now. I was starting to question whether I could sustain the personal best time I had started with.

I tried to hit most every water stop and get at least a mouthful of water in at each without stopping. I know that I don’t need much hydration a race of this duration. Getting a swig every 15 mins or so is good for me. I stuffed down an Amrita Bar right before the start and had another one broken up into pieces in my Spibelt if I needed more. The problem is getting the bar out of the Spibelt seemed like it would take more time to get out than it would be worth, so I pressed on.

In the Lehigh Parkway – Photo courtesy of myEPEvents

After a couple slower miles in the parkway, I was able to pick things up a little during the 11th mile. Miles 12 and 13 were a little slow again as my legs were really hurting. I knew there was no catching up with Stéphane unless he was having a really bad day. The thought that that may be a possibility kept me pushing on.

I finally made the last turn down along Cedar Beach and up into J. Birney Crum Stadium. I was so glad to be almost done. My Garmin was reading 1:44 and some change so I was pretty sure I had a new PR, but not sure where my speed co-worker was.

As I crossed the line, I grabbed my medal and saw Stéphane standing there already finished. Ahhh! I got so caught up in trying to catch him that my PR seemed to be of no significance to me. I was also a bit disappointed that I slowed as the race went on. A sign that I probably went out too fast.

The Finish – photo courtesy of myEpEvents

Ok, I just PR’d my Half-Marathon time by over 2 freakin’ minutes??!!! What the hell is wrong with me? It wasn’t until a little later when I met up with my coach who asked how I did. My initial reaction was that of disappointment but then followed up with I PR’d by over two minutes. He was like what? He was then like “that’s awesome!” I thought huh, yeah what am I disappointed about? I guess sometimes you can’t see the forest for the trees.

Last week I was talking about it with my strength coach, Fernando, and explaining how I was able to PR that race being 6 years older and 20 lbs heavier. Fernando said you are “older and faster” and I added “and fatter too”. Hence the title Older, Fatter, and Faster! Pretty funny.

I have actually dropped about 15 lbs so far since the beginning of this season and am on track to lose at least another 15 by Ironman Mont-Tremblant in August. Getting down another 15 lbs will only serve to make me that much faster. I have PR’d both races I have done this season, so I am off to a good start and the sky is the limit here.

Next up is the French Creek Olympic Distance Triathlon in late May. This will be a good indicator of where my triathlon fitness lies by putting together all the disciplines. I am anticipating some improvement in the swim with some of the changes in technique I have made that have improved my times in the pool. Running off the bike will be interesting to see if I can sustain my improved pace with some bike legs. 2016 is proving to be off to a good start to a hopeful season.

 

IMCDA 2015 Training Log-Week#17(Apr 20-26 2015)

Week 17 was not the typical recovery week. Usually my recovery weeks start out with some very low HRV readings and a general feeling of “blah”. At least in the early part of the week. This week I felt pretty darn good. I took Monday totally off of training and had an easy swim on Tuesday. My HRV, on average, went higher. I skipped my bike workout on Thursday with the intention of doing it Friday since I had off. Friday I had a pretty good swim and  I never did get that bike ride in. Now I have two days off. I did have the St. Luke’s Half Marathon on Sunday, so I thought I could justify that.

<a href=

iThlete Timeline Week 17″ width=”625″ height=”295″ /> iThlete Timeline Week 17

Friday night we had dinner with some friends at The Dime in downtown Allentown. I find myself in Center City Allentown a lot these days? Food was pretty good, but they are still working out some growing pains on the service side. After our dinner, we went to the Wise Crackers Comedy Club at the Ramada Inn on McArthur Road in Whitehall to see Jimmy Carroll. Side-splitting funny guy!! Nothing like have a good laugh.

iThlete Training Guide Week 17

iThlete Training Guide Week 17

My wife enjoyed The Dime so much that we headed back there in the morning for breakfast. We had to go downtown anyway since I had packet pickup for the half marathon which was just down the street. Food was good, but service still a little lacking. She didn’t bring my coffee until after the food…WTH??!

I quickly breezed through the expo and then bumped into a few people I knew and ended up chatting a while. My wife found some sneaker deals so that tied us up some more. Then there was the health food store across the street…more time. DIdn’t get out of there until 11am.

Farm near Fleetwood

Farm near Fleetwood

Saturday was a really nice day and I got an easy 3 hour/50 mile ride in. Just enough to maintain my bike endurance and not too much to tire me out for the half marathon the next day.

Training Peaks Calendar Week 17

Training Peaks Calendar Week 17

I wasn’t planning to taper for NJ Devilman, but it looks like I will be a little tapered.

Training Peaks-PMC Chart-Week #17-April20-26 2015

Training Peaks-PMC Chart-Week #17-April20-26 2015

Training Peaks-TSS by Week Chart-Week #17-April20-26 2015

Training Peaks-TSS by Week Chart-Week #17-April20-26 2015

Training Peaks-Volume by Week Chart-Week #17-April20-26 2015

Training Peaks-Volume by Week Chart-Week #17-April20-26 2015

 

Race Day

Had a great nights sleep Saturday night into Sunday. After I got up and started making my breakfast smoothie, my stomach started grumbling a bit and I started feeling kind of strange. I drank some coffee and about half of my smoothie before I was making a mad dash for the bathroom. Not good when you have a 13 mile run ahead of you.

My wife made up her concoction of baking soda and lemon juice, to calm my stomach, and I chugged that down. It helped a bit. Enough for me to get my stuff together and drive down to the race. I parked about a mile away and figured I would jog a mile to the start line to warm-up a bit. I only made it a about a half mile before things started brewing. I started making a b-line for a bathroom I spotted on the other side of the park I was walking next to. I will spare you details, but I decided that I would not be racing today. I then walked back to the car and headed home.

The next two days were not fun. I haven’t felt that bad in a while.

Not a real good start to the race season, but hopefully I have gotten that out of my system. Literally and figuratively!

Fortunately, next Sunday is New Jersey Devilman Half Lite(50 mi) so I should be healthier for that. I would rather miss a half-marathon than a half ironman.

Race Report: Pittsburgh Half Marathon 2014

If you read my previous post on our trip report to Pittsburgh, you know that my wife talked me into running this race with her so that she could coerce me to go to Pittsburgh for a long weekend. You also know that my wife could not run the race due to knee issues, so this left me flying solo. I was originally just running it as a training race and would stay with her, but now I figured I might try to PR it. The elevation map for the race looked fairly flat except for miles 11-12.5 and then a downhill finish. So that was now my plan. I had done an easy, recovery week of training the week prior so it was shaping up to be a perfect .

image

I woke up around 4:45am after a pretty good night sleep at the Hampton Inn. I had an Amrita bar and a Vega Performance bar to kick the metabolic engine off along with a cup of Starbucks Via coffee. I was quickly dressed, since I had laid out everything the night before. I brought along a old pair of track pants to keep warm and then ditch before the race. It was supposed to be fairly cool this morning, around 40-50 degree ( F), and there was a slight chance of rain.

PA, Travel, pittsburgh

Heinz Field and Carnegie Science Museum

We hopped in the CR-V and headed down I-279 to the parking lot by Heinz Field. On Saturday, the parking attendant said she was not going to be there until 5:30am, so we could park for free if we beat her. Fat chance! There was another attendant there before and we waited in the short line to pay our $5 to get in. A T-line rail train had come and left while we parked, so we would have to wait for the next. We got up the platform, which was pretty empty and waited. More and more runners accumulated while we waited and eventually the train came and quickly shuttled us downtown.

Pittsburgh2014-59-2

It was pretty busy with runners downtown when we came up from the rail line. I spotted a bank toilets and made a B-line for them. There were NO LINES!! I haven’t seen that at a race in a long time. We then sauntered down the street to the cross street where “B” start corral was located. They had all the side streets blocked off with chain-link fencing one block on each side from the starting line street. We hung out there for a bit until it got closer to start time. A few rain drops fell as we waited but nothing major. It was a really cloudy morning.

Pittsburgh2014-00-5

I said goodbye to my wife and made my way through the security checkpoint. There were more toilets in the high security area between the gate and the start line. I didn’t have to go real bad at that point and kept going past. I also didn’t want to wait in the line. It wasn’t huge, but I was impatient. I made my way up the starting corrals to the 8min/mile pace area, which was not very full at this point. The full and the half marathon all started together by pace too. As I waited my bladder began to indicate I should have taken one more leak before. Oh well too late now.

Pittsburgh2014-45-6

We were off. It had started to rain a bit harder at this point. The first couple miles up Liberty St. were very flat and I got up to a good cruising speed. I was averaging a sub-8, which is what I needed to do to PR. The need to pee became more and more urgent and I found it hard to concentrate on anything else. I kept checking out the toilets along the course but they were all full. Around mile 3 I finally found an open one. Ahhh!! Well, that was the longest pee I ever took I think. It seemed to not want to end. I was looking at my watch as the seconds were ticking away. Ugh…now I got a deficit to make up.

I sprung from out of the Port-O-John like I was rocket. My average pace on my Garmin was now saying 14:00 min/mi average for this 3rd mile. No problem I can make this up now. I still ended up averaging an 9:00/mi pace for the 3rd mile so it didn’t hurt me too much. We made a right turn over the first of many bridges. This was the first real incline of the day, but I was still hanging on to a solid 8:00/mi pace.

Pittsburgh2014-47-3

All hell broke loose around mile 6. I started getting a really sharp cramp under my rib cage on the right side. I don’t typically get side-stitches, but now I am pretty sure that is what it was. It started to hurt bad enough that I needed to walk a bit. I realized that it was most-likely from not breathing properly, which is usually what causes. I began doing some deep breathing exercises and it eventually worked itself out. I felt my PR slipping away with every slow step. Mile 6 & 7 were averaging just a hair under 9:00/mi. Wah…wah…wah!

I decided that my PR was gone now and I decided to just enjoy the race and take in the views as we crossed more yellow bridges. There was a large group of kids singing that “Happy” song at the bottom of the hill on Alexander St. on the South side which gave a little spring in my step again. Then I saw Denise standing on a barricade down towards the Duquesne Incline which also helped me pick things up again. It was a pretty nice long, flat stretch along the South Side before turning left over the Birmingham Bridge. There were a ton of spectators out all along the South Side cheering away. It looked like a really cool neighborhood too with lots of shops, bars and restaurants. It started to hurt a bit as we crossed the bridge. The bridge itself was pretty steep and then it was a slog up Forbes Ave and then Boulevard of the Allies.

Pittsburgh2014-00-2

Around mile 12.5 it started downhill all the way to the finish. There were lots of spectators cheering everyone into the finish line which was nice. I crossed the line in 1:51:19(official results), which is about 5 mins off my PR. It was a nice race regardless and I was happy to have spent a nice weekend in Pittsburgh.

image

Pittsburgh2014-34-2

Race Report-San Francisco Rock ‘n’ Roll Half Marathon 2014

I immediately got online and started searching for endurance-related races after receiving word that I would be attending the Microsoft Build Developers Conference in San Francisco. Low and behold, the San Francisco Rock ‘n’ Roll Half Marathon was running the Sunday immediately following the conference on April 6th. The best part was, it was running back-and-forth over the Golden Gate Bridge. How could I pass that up? I would need to do a two-hour run anyway that day, so might as well.

MS Build, San Francisco

Rock ‘n’ Roll Half Marathon Expo

Everything continued to fall into place with this too. The packet-pickup and expo was in one of the Moscone Center buildings, which was where the Microsoft conference was. The race ended in the Civic Center Square, which was only a couple blocks from my hotel. The race also provided bus transport from the Civic Center Square. Logistically perfect!

Packet Pickup and Race Expo

We headed over to the Moscone Center on Saturday morning after fueling up with some breakfast at Dottie’s True Blue Cafe. Dottie’s is reknown for their breakfasts and TripAdvisor had warned of long lines to get in. We got there early enough and we were seated right away. Getting to Dottie’s is a bit of a treat too. It is right in middle of one of the scarier sections of the city. If you go there, beware of having to walk amongst some of the street folk making random outbursts as you sneak by. The food was pretty good, but I didn’t see what all the fuss was about. That is until we left. They had some amazing looking baked goods in the case when we left. Guess I didn’t order correctly.

After breakfast we headed over to the Moscone Center to for Packet Pickup and the Race Expo. The packet pickup was a bit over-organized. They almost had too many volunteers because it was highly over-specialized. Each item of swag was handed to you by a different volunteer instead of prefilling the swag bags. Then they force you through the race store to try to persuade a purchase out of you.

Endurance Sports, Half Marathon, Race, Running, San Francisco, Sports, expo, run

Trying on a pair of Hoka’s(aka dork shoes). I am slowly warming up to these, but am still not ready to buy a pair. They look like those goofy rocker shoes women wear.

The race expo was actually pretty good and a decent size. It was much larger than most of the Ironman triathlon event expos I have been to. We spent a bit of time there too listening to some sales pitches and even trying on some Hoka’s. I am still not up to buying a pair of these things yet, but there freakish looks are starting to grow one me. My wife is actually entertaining the idea of buying a pair since she thinks it may help her knee pain.

Places, San Francisco, city, garden

Yerba Buena Gardens, St. Patricks Church & San Francisco

We walked through the Yerba Buena Gardens after the expo which is right in front of the Moscone Center. It is a pretty little oasis amongst the concrete jungle of the city. There are also a couple restaurants and shops that surround it too. It was getting to be around lunchtime now so we headed back to the hotel to get ready for our road ride to Sausalito and Tiburon, which you can read more about in my previous post.

Places, San Francisco, city, garden
Pano view of San Francisco from Yerba Bueno Gardens. Yerba Buena Gardens, St. Patricks Church & San Francisco

Race Morning

I woke up around 4:45am on race morning and immediately fueled up with a Vega Performance Protein Bar, an Amrita Bar and some Starbucks Via coffee. I had prepared and laid out all of my clothing and race bid the night before so getting ready was pretty easy. Running races are generally so much easier to get ready for compared to triathlons. Plus, this was a casual run for me, so not a lot of pressure here. I was tip-toing around the hotel room with my headlamp on the whole time so not to wake Denise up. She was actually sleeping quite soundly which is odd for this time of the morning. She is typically an early riser. Around 5:15am I headed down the elevator and out the main lobby towards the Civic Center Square, which was where the race transport was, to get to the starting line. The Civic Center is located right in the heart of the shadiest part of San Fran, so I was a bit anxious about getting there by myself. I was hoping I could join up with some other people that were going to the race as well. To my misfortune there was no one leaving the hotel at the same time. As I started into the thick of the scary sections I started jogging a bit. I needed to warm up and this would get me quickly past most of the folks lying about in the streets. I eventually located a couple a few blocks ahead of me, so I sped up a bit to try and tag along with them. I passed one homeless fellow sitting on a hydrant or something that looked at my as I scurried by and said “good luck!” I laughed and said “thanks man!” as it took me by surprise. There was also one street corner that had a bunch of homeless folks congregating on it and they were all yelling at one another. I found this a good opportunity to cross the street here. I soon caught up with the couple, but by then we had reached Market St. which is well lit and was pretty full of runners heading to the square. Whew…Safety at last! The lines were pretty long at the Civic Center, but they were rolling and loading the yellow & black school buses through pretty quickly. Before long I was on a bus headed to the start line. The ride was around 25 minutes or so and I had a seat all to myself to spread out. When I finally reached the starting line area which was situated along Ocean Beach on the west side of San Fran, I was in a B-line for the port-a-loo. There were a ton of them, but they all had huge lines. I walked down to the farthest one thinking the lines would be less, but no such luck. I settled into a line and waited. It seemed like forever. There was a couple girls behind me who did not shut up the whole time. It surely made my patience wane even more. I was a bit more disturbed when they continued to talk through the National Anthem. The race was a wave start, so each finish time-based corral would start every couple minutes. I didn’t realize this at the time, so I really wasn’t that concerned about starting with the race clock. I had my Garmin so that is all I really cared about. And…I had to pee really bad. I eventually got a port-a-john and let the floodgates release. I quickly dropped off my post-race gear bag off and headed to the start line for the 2:00 hour finish corral. I still had plenty of time will my wave went off.

The Race

Endurance Sports, Half Marathon, Race, Running, San Francisco, Sports, expo, run

San Francisco Rock ‘n’ Roll Half Marathon start

And we were off. We headed down Great Highway and quickly made a right turn up Balboa St., were we encountered our fist hill of the day. It wasn’t terribly steep, but just kept going up and up. The first mile was pretty slow since I was dodging people as we ambered up the hilly course. I am also not one to start out too fast. I need to ease into my pace and sometimes it takes me a half hour to settle into a groove. Guess that is why I like the longer distances.

Endurance Sports, Half Marathon, Race, Running, San Francisco, Sports, expo, run

San Francisco Rock ‘n’ Roll Half Marathon sunrise

My times gradually increased as the crowd sorted itself out and I got into my groove. The exception to that was on Lincoln Blvd, right before the Golden Gate Bridge, which was a pretty healthy climb. This and the fact that there was a lot of picture taking going on with its unique view of the GG Bridge. This helped sort out the crowd for the very narrow cattle chute that we had to endure crossing the Golden Gate Bridge. There was a bunch of jugglers and guys riding huge unicycles too which helped distract you from the pain. San Francisco Rock 'n' Roll Half Marathon Elevation Profile

Endurance Sports, Half Marathon, Race, Running, San Francisco, Sports, expo, run

San Francisco Rock ‘n’ Roll Half Marathon

Each direction had one full lane of the bridge. As we made the first cross towards Sausalito, many were drifting over into the opposite lane since the fast runners had not made it there yet. I stayed mostly on the left side up against the yellow rope that separated us from the bridge traffic. Both directions on the bridge were tight and it was difficult to find any open running room. There was a girl running in some rainbow-colored hairy boots that I found myself following for a while. It was pretty cool running across the bridge though and I took the opportunity to snap a few pics along the way.

Once across the bridge, the crowd thinned out quite a bit with the wider road heading down into Crissy Field. We were now at least half way through the race and we finally encountered a band playing. I almost forgot that this was a ROCK ‘N’ ROLL event! The band was playing so quietly though that you may have missed them if you didn’t see them. We did encounter a few more bands after this which got subsequently louder after this.

Endurance Sports, Half Marathon, Race, Running, San Francisco, Sports, expo, run

San Francisco Rock ‘n’ Roll Half Marathon-Heading down to Crissy Field

We then headed through the city again on our way back to Civic Center Square finish. With the city came more hills again…ugh! On one of these hill I started getting so nauseated that I thought I was going to puke. I managed to keep it in though and it eventually went away. I also started getting down into the 7-8min/mi pace as the raced thinned a bit and we hit some flatter sections. I started to pick it up a bit too since I felt good and I thought I would try to negative split the race.

Endurance Sports, Half Marathon, Race, Running, San Francisco, Sports, expo, run

San Francisco Rock ‘n’ Roll Half Marathon-Rocker Dude

As we were heading down Polk St., towards the last mile or two, they diverted us straight where others had been making a left towards Larkin St. This was kind of cool because it felt like we were in the front pack of the race for a little while. Eventually we were sent left to Larkin and joined in with the rest of the bunch. The last mile was a downhill cruise to the finish where I was running in the low 7’s. My wife took a picture of me and it looks like I was severely putting the brakes on.  I crossed the line in 1:55:11 which isn’t too bad considering I wasn’t really going for time. It was more of tourist sightseeing tour. I grabbed my finisher medal, a couple of waters and searched around for some decent food. I managed to find some banana’s and pisctachio’s among all the other post-race crap they call food. Some of the worst was the Cheez-Its and of course the worst of all…Chocolate Milk!!! Yuk!! The worst thing was people were grabbing it like it was going out of style. It kills me how they can push this crap off as some kind of health food. Why don’t they just hand out some Mountain Dew while they are at it!

Post Race

I claimed my gear bag and we headed back to the hotel to pack and check out. The race was really fun with great views and a challenging one with the hills. I would recommend it as one to check out, but not if you are going for a PR. The lack of music along the course was a bit of a let down for a Rock ‘n’ Roll branded event. The local St. Lukes Half Marathon in Allentown is Far better with regards to course music. This race made me appreciate how good a race that is. I believe there was a concert and free beer after the race, but we weren’t going to be sticking around to find out. We were on route to Yosemite this afternoon. Thanks for reading!

2013 Runner’s World Half Marathon & Festival Hat Trick

20131023-073501.jpg

There was a little bit of a void after coming off of my first Ironman with nothing new to train for. I heard about the Runner’s World Half Marathon & Festival that was coming up in mid-October which had a 5k and 10k on Saturday and a half-marathon on Sunday. They also had the “Hat Trick” which allowed you to compete in all 3 events. This sounded like a pretty unique test of speed and endurance and the timing seemed pretty good as well, so I signed up. It definitely put me back at ease to have some other event to look forward to. The event is also held in Bethlehem, PA which is only 30 minutes or so from my home.

We had returned from our fairly demanding little 14-day Haute Route trek through the Swiss Alps in mid-September. With a few days of recovering from that, I was left with about 3 good weeks of training to prep for the “Hat Trick”. I was still carrying a pretty decent amount of fitness so getting back to my previous fitness level was not too big a deal. The problem was I was carrying about 10 extra pounds of weight from my 2-week diet of cheese, some meat and beer left over from our little Swiss excursion too.

I didn’t have too much problem getting back to eliminating the meat from my diet again, but the cheese and beer were a little more difficult. I had regained my taste for pizza again and after finding a local Italian eatery that made authentic Italian pizza and even uses imported Italian flour, I was not able to wean myself off of that yet. The same place had a local Pumpkin Ale that was equally scrumptious to help me maintain those extra 10 pounds.

Anyway, the training had gone fairly well during the 3-3.5 half weeks leading up to the Runner’s World event. I was fairly confident that I could that at least post a PR 5k time, since I hadn’t run one in several years and the last PR time was done in the middle of a 100 degree day. My hope was to not overdo it for the 5k and 10k, and save something for the half-marathon on Sunday and possibly get a PR there. The other thing is that I thought if I could be at all competitive for the Hat Trick division, that I had more chance of gaining time in the half marathon given it is longer.

I got over to Bethlehem on Saturday morning around 7am and parked a few blocks up from the Steel Stacks complex at the recently refurbished Bethlehem Steel property. It was a pretty brisk morning with temps in the low 40s. I decided to keep a fleece on and head down to the race. After walking around a bit I was unable to locate any gear-check area, so I quickly jogged back to the car and threw my pullover back in the car. I tried to keep jogging to keep some body heat going. I made it back to the start line in plenty of time.

The 5K

They did the usual pre-race chatter and then the National Anthem was played by a violinist. It was pretty awesome! W were then escorted by the esteemed Bart Yasso down the street away from the starting arch to some other less obvious start line about 50-100 yards away. hmmm…Ok? We then got the start horn and we were off.

My goal was to just maintain a steady 7:00/mi pace for this. I thought this would give me my PR without totally wrecking my legs for the other races. We soon hit the ramp to the Fahy Bridge which started the hilly section of the course. We then ran around the Bethlehem library on the north side of town and then back over bridge again. Once over the middle of the bridge is was all downhill or flat until we made a right out to Daly Ave and headed up towards the Sands Casino before making a left back towards the Steel Stacks finish line. I averaged 7:16 for the race which I was pretty happy with. I willingly let off the trigger a bit on the last mile when I realized that I was pretty much going to PR at that point and I wanted to save a little energy for the next event. I finished with a 22:45 which beat my previous best time by over a minute.

The 10K

I had over an hour until the 10k started, so I had some time to chill a bit before the 10k.  I ran back up to the car to drop off my 5k finisher medal and refuel a bit. It was good to keep moving too so my legs didn’t get all stiff. I also threw on some clothes just to help stay warm. Before I knew it was time to head back down for the 10k.

I got back to the start line area in plenty of time so I could hit the port-a-john before the start. I walked around a bit and chatted with some other runners I knew from work. It was getting close to start time so I made my way to the start line. I lined up in the 8:00 min/mi area since I figured that was about where I was planning on running. If I felt good I may pick it up. We were then seranaded by a young, local girl with a amazing voice to “God Bless America.” And then we were off.

The 10k followed basically the same general direction as the 5k except that it extended out a bit. We headed up closer to Lehigh University on the South Side and then up Main St. on the North Side of town. It was a bit more scenic obviously than the 5k since there was just more to see. It went pretty well and I think I ran a relatively consistent race. My last 3 miles were a bit quicker than my first 3 which I was happy about. Some of that could be due to the more downhill grade of the last 3 miles. I missed PR-ing by around 40 seconds with a time of around 49:40, but I really wasn’t trying to PR anyway. I still had a half marathon to run tomorrow so I wanted to try to save something for the next day.

 The Half Marathon

I had a much better nights sleep on Saturday night before the half marathon and arrived back on the South Side of Bethlehem ready to run. It was another brisk morning in the 40’s, which was perfect running weather again. The half marathon started up by the large steel sign for the Sands Casino which was a bit farther away than the 5k & 10k start line at the SteelStacks complex. I started following the masses up the sidewalk, but then noticed the paved path through the Bethlehem “Greenway” on the other side of the street. I jogged over there and then jogged my way up to the start line. My bladder and started to feel ready to explode by the time I got up there and I was hoping there would be some toilets available. I eventually spotted them down a side street and the line was fairly long. While standing in line, two ladies behind were commenting about a couple of unusual looking porta-a-john’s over to the right. I thought they were handicap stalls, but turns out they had trough urninals on both sides. Awesome! And no lines too! The ladies were whining about it not being fair, but what the heck, you just gained a spot closer since I moved out of your line??

I then made my way over to the start line after relieving the pressure in my bladder. I stood around the 8:00min/mi pace area and eventually it started to get packed in as everyone assumed their places. The horn blew and we were off. It was a downhill grade for the first 3/4 miles so, so I was going a little faster than what I was planning on averaging for the run. I was hoping to average around 8 min/mi pace which would secure a PR for me. My prior PR was a 8:06 avg which was at St. Lukes a few years back.

We eventually turned left and headed uphill towards Lehigh University. From here on out it would be primarily uphill for most of the race. Somewhere I heard someone say it was mostly uphill until mile 8 and then it was all downhill. So I would try to hold 8 min/mi to there and then let it rip after that. I was trying to stay just ahead of the 8 min/mi pace group but they soon got ahead of me. I vowed to myself to keep them in close proximity so that I could easily get by them again. We crossed the bridge to the other side of town and made our way up Main St. The 8 min/mi pace group was slipping a little further ahead.

We then headed downhill towards the Monocacy Creek and flattened out a bit while flanking it on the right. We then hit Elizabeth Ave and Schoenersville Road and things got a little rough. It seemed like a never ending uphill slog and the 8 min pace group slipped further and further away. My 7:55-8:00 pace slipped to 8:20-8:24 and I my legs were screaming. The muscle soreness from yesterdays’ events decided to present itself. I was feeling a PR slowly slipping away with each incline. Every bit of flat or downhill relief was followed up with a nice energy sapping uphill. I could feel my mental state slipping into more negative self-talk. Not good.

I decided to just try to hold on as best I could. Mile 5.5 to mile 8 were brutal. My legs screamed for mercy but I just kept pushing as much as I could. I did slow down to a walk during one aid station just to get some water down without splashing all over myself. I figured what the hell, I am not PR-ing this now. Probably a mistake.

I finally hit mile 8 and thought “oh finally, all downhill from here!” Not! Yeah there was downhill, but also uphill too. The thoughts of hearing it being easy from here and it not really messed me up. Miles 8-11 were bad. I was struggling to keep my pace and actually was feeling nauseous too. I even had thoughts of packing it in and walking.

When I started approaching the Bethlehem Library complex, I finally realized the self-defeating thoughts going through my head. I started to mentally challenge those thoughts and reverse them into positives.  The course had now started downhill and flat and I began to pick up the pace a bit. Even though I thought a PR was out of the question, I committed to at least finishing strong and negative-splitting the last couple miles. I now began to pass people. I passed a couple people that had passed me earlier in the race which added to my motivation.

It was all flat through the old Bethlehem Steel complex and I only had one gradual uphill to go right before reaching the Sands Casino. I maintained a sub 8:00 pace held it through to the finish line. As I made my way down to the flaming arch finish line, I could see the time clock showing 1:46 and change. My stomach sank…My half marathon PR was a 1:46:41. I realized that I could have possibly beat that time. Ugh!

I crossed the line at 1:47:10! Only 29 seconds short of my PR. If only I wouldn’t have walked that aid station and maybe pushed a little harder on those hills? I was so focused on my average paces for each mile that I didn’t really take into consideration the overall time. 29 seconds is not much time over 13.1 miles. Oh well, it was not meant to be I guess.

The one factor I also forgot about was that I ran 5k & 10k the day prior and even PR-ed 5k, so coming 29 seconds off my best half time is not too bad considering that. All-in-all it was a great event and I would consider doing it again. Very well run and organized. It was also great for helping my push the boundaries of my running speeds too. One area I would really like to improve for Ironman next year.

Post-Race Recovery

The week after the Runner’s World Hat Trick I was extremely sore. I definitely recruited some muscle fibers in my legs that had not been utilized much before. I did not run at all the week after and gave those muscle ample time to recover and grow a bit. We can save those for Lake Placid 2014 and training for it. Next up, we are planning on running the Cooper Norcross Run the Bridge 10k on November, 3rd for my wifes’ and my birthday. It starts in Camden and runs back and forth across the Ben Franklin Bridge and then finishes up in Camden. There are usually about 4500 people in the event so it will be one of the largest events I have participated in. Not looking for any PR’s in this one I think. Just enjoy the day and the fact that I am another year old and still in the best shape of my life!

Thanks for reading!

 

2013 Lehigh Valley Half-Marathon Race Report

The alarm went off at 5AM on Sunday morning. 5AM has become a normal time for me to wake up anymore, even on a Sunday. Today was the 2013 St. Luke’s Lehigh Valley Half Marathon. I had run this race once before, but his time the goal was getting my wife to the finish of her 1st half marathon. A task we thought would not have even thought possible a year ago. Dealing with fatigue issues, she had trouble running a mile a year ago. Well, she could run the mile, but she paid dearly for it afterwards. But through diet and lifestyle changes she has made it through the training, granted a few aches and pains, but today she had the chance to complete that goal.

I had run this race for the first time back in 2010 while on the path to my first olympic distance triathlon. It was a cold, rainy miserable day but I still managed to squeak out a 1:46 half. Today it was really just a Sunday training run for me. I had been running this distance every Sunday for the last several weeks in prep for Ironman Lake Placid, so covering the distance was no different than any other week. It was nice though to be focused on someone else’s goal for a change. Especially for someone that eagerly goes to all of my triathlon events, lasting waiting many hours, for the couple of minutes that I pass by in transition to the next discipline.

Before we knew it was 8:00am and the race was starting at 8:10am. We started to panic a bit. Denise really had to go, so there was not many options for her. We stood there for a few minutes more and then as the other lines next to us thinned out. W could see even more toilets with what seemed to be no lines. I told her to run up there and see and if she was not back in a couple of minutes I would be up. Sure enough, she never returned and I ran up there right into a toilet. Ahhh!

We met up outside the toilets and booked around to the other side of the school. They still had not started and we jockeyed our way right up to the corral we needed to be in. And then the starter said “Go!” Nice timing.

There was a ton of people running and all you could see was a sea of runners filling the street sloping downhill from the starting area. We slowly weaved through the masses until we found an area that was paced similar to us. As we headed out along Cedar Beach, the 5k runners were coming back along a narrow chute bordered by an occasional orange cone. Several half-marathon runners had spilled over into the 5k lane and one 5k guy yelled at HM guy to get out of the way. My manager, Steve, was running in the 5k, so I was hanging by the chute looking for him to come by.  I gave him a shout as he flew by at blazing speed(brown-nosing here 🙂 ) and then blended back into the masses of running to catch up with the wife.

We made a left up Ott St. lined on each side by the pinkish-purple blooming crab apple trees and then another quick left down through Cedar Beach Park. We started settling into a steady rhythm after cresting the little hill on St. Elmo St. I had set my Garmin screen to show average pace for overall, lap and current. All three were showing 9:11min/mi. We maintained that pace for the entire stretch down Martin Luther King Boulevard.

We hit most of the rest stops for water and I ended up getting caught up in one for a bit and had to catch back up with Denise again. The run down MLK Boulevard goes pretty quickly since there is a lot to see. Both directions of runners are utilizing the entire street in a UK driving fashion, so watch the other runners coming the opposite way keeps your mind distracted from the task at hand. There were some people in crazy costumes, fireman in full gear and even a couple people I knew. There are also several bands playing along the way jamming away some pretty good tunes. There was apparently another girl named, Denise, running behind us who apparently knew many spectators. This was driving my wife bonkers since she kept hearing her name called all the time. Before we knew it we were crossing the little humpy bridge at the halfway point and into the gravel paths of the parkway. Time on clock said 1:00, but my watch said 0:59 due to the gun vs. chip time difference.

I run down the parkway pretty frequently, so this is like home sweet home. We continued to tick off the miles still maintaining our 9:10 pace. We hit the hilly section right past the Police training grounds which slowed us down a bit. We did start to pick it up a little bit after the halfway point, but not too much. I told Denise that if she wanted to pick it up more that I would let her set the pace. She indicated a slight niggle in her calf, so she wanted to wait a bit.

As we approached the covered bridge crossing the Little Lehigh Creek there were tons spectators lining the sides of the trail. It was pretty loud. I was scanning the crowd, but didn’t see anyone we knew. We made our way through the covered bridge watching each foot step on the uneven boards comprising the floor.  I mentioned to my wife we had lost some time with the hills and I think that pushed her a bit. We passed a guy singing Bing Crosby-like tunes along the way, which was kind of different from most of the music playing earlier. Jam it dude!

Next thing we knew we were out of the park and back on MLK Boulevard. My wife just got the words out saying “we can up the pace at mile 11” when we rounded the bend displaying the 11th mile marker. I said “Ok.” We than started into the 8-8:30 min/mi range which was actually feeling pretty good. We really started to pass some people as most were starting to fade a bit at the later miles of the course. On girl called out something to the tune of “nice pace” as we buzzed by. It didn’t sink in at first, but then we said “thanks” after we were about 15 yards past her.

2013 Half Marathon Finish

2013 Half Marathon Finish

Next we could hear the thuds of the big drums pounding as we approached the short hill into the stadium. As we got onto the track for our little victory lap to the finish, my wife really started to crank up the speed. So much so that I was caught off guard and had to catch back up with her. She pointed out the finish clock time of 2:01 as we rounded the turn and I suddenly realized we could make it under 2:00 hours. I glanced at my Garmin and it read 1:59:48. I told her to “book it” and that we had 10 secs. We cranked it even more and crossed the finish with arms raised. Unfortunately it was 5 secs shy. Finish time: 2:00:05.

My wife was pretty happy with her results. Her original goal was to stay under a 10:00 min/mi pace which she far exceeded. The best part was that she felt great the rest of the day and even the rest of the week. No soreness or anything. I would say that was probably a bigger goal met than just finishing.

After the race, we decided to skip the race food due to the extremely long line and head down to Allentown Brew Works for lunch. I did have a celebratory IPA, which blew my 80 days of no beer. Oh well, I only had one anyway.

Next week is a race week with my first triathlon of the season. Back to training…

 

 

Wedding and 2013 Lehigh Valley Half-Marathon Expo

A Wedding…

Friday morning was my normal long, slow 45 minutes swim. I was feeling pretty good and happy that my ear was feeling better, so I threw in an extra 250 meters for good measure. One of my wife’s cousins was getting married that evening, so I rushed home after work to get dressed and head over to Lake Nockamixon where the wedding was at.

The wedding was at the Lake House Inn on the far side of the lake(from Quakertown). The place was really beautiful and the reception “bubble” hall had all glass windows on the lake side, which was pretty spectacular as the sun went down. It was a gorgeous day too. I can’t believe I didn’t take a picture of it! It was a really nice affair and I think my favorite thing was my placecard. I guess I was the only “vegan” at the wedding. My wifes’ cousin said I threw them for a loop. I ended up getting a nice chuck of baked tofu and extra veggies and potatoes which was fine.

 

St. Luke’s Lehigh Valley Half Marathon Expo

On Saturday, we headed over to the LV Half Marathon Expo for our bib pickup. It was at the Holiday Inn in downtown Allentown which is always an adventure since we don’t get down there too often. My wife wanted to check out a seminar at 11am so we were trying to get there by then. The seminar we attended was the “Because I Can” seminar by Janet Oberholtzer. Janet had been in a serious accident several years ago and suffered serious injury to her legs and was told she could not walk again. Now she is running marathons. She ran in the D&L Marathon last November that I had run. I was actually wondering if she had a better time than I did…fortunately she didn’t. Whew! Pretty impressive and motivating story worth checking out.

 

After that we headed over to the expo and picked up our bibs and swag. Swag was pretty lame actually. Technical shirt was nice and in my favorite color green. Other than that we just got a re-usable shopping bag. One good thing was there was no advertisements either. I ended up find a 4-bottle FuelBelt for Ironman and some spare bottles for my run special needs bag. My wife spotted some running “skort” she had to have which is a combination of a skirt and shorts. It’s all about looking good I guess. To her credit she had bought some cheapo one at Target that was causing some chaffing issues. I bumped into some work friends that were running and Chris from the Emmaus Run Inn(formerly The Finish Line Running Store) and chatted a bit. We were going to hit the Allentown Brew Works for some lunch, but changed plans due to how late it was. Instead we opted for Wegman’s buffet. I still had a ~3 hour bike ride to do and it was past noon already.

 

Bike Ride – Category 3 on Sweetwood Drive

Next up was my long bike ride of the week. My coach put a 2:00 ride on my schedule but said if I felt up to it I could do 2:30-2:45. I felt the need to go one better and do a 3:00 ride instead. Running a half-marathon the next day is not going to keep me down. Not only did I do a long ride, but I finally hit the Category 3 climb on Sweetwood Drive out of Macungie that I had been eager to try for some time. The ride did not disappoint and it went on and on with varying degrees of gradient the whole 3.2 miles. Good warm-up for the legs. After that I pretty much kept it on the rollers the rest of the ride. There was a slight breeze that day but nothing that would make much of a difference really.

After my ride, I put on my compression socks, made some dinner and relaxed a bit for tomorrow’s half-marathon.