Tag Archives: Running

The Value of the Long Run or Ride

garbage, junk, trash, pitch

While out on my long run of the week the other day, I was thinking about about all the times I have heard the long run referred to a “junk miles” lately. We have been innundated with all of these so-called experts who keep spouting out how to “hack” everything.  People love to hear someone tell them that doing something that is difficult is not necessary. Rich Roll has a great blog post on this here. This is what gets people coming to your site and getting publicity too. It is like those crazy headlines you read in the checkout line at the grocery store.

Well, I hate to break it to you folks, but you are not going to run a good marathon or Ironman without putting in those rides and runs and the hard work that goes with it. Every weekend I push myself that extra 10-20 minutes further than the previous week until getting to or close to that ultimate distance I need to cover come race day. When I get to that distance, then I can step back and increase the pace a bit to try  and cover it in less time.

The real “junk miles” are the ones done with no purpose. When you set out on a workout with no intention, you are just spinning your wheels. Literally and figuratively. Whether you set out to run a fast mile or a slow, zone 2 3-hour run, if you are completing the workout with an intention to accomplish a specific goal, then they are never junk miles.

I ran across this short post by Coach Jay Johnson called Stop undervaluing the Long Run the other day which kind of sparked some thoughts I had a about this topic. I love my long runs and bike rides and would not trade them for anything. It is one of the things that keeps me coming back to Ironman every year.

 

 

Treadmill Shopping

Treadmill Shopping

ProForm J6 Treadmill

ProForm J6 Treadmill

My old ProForm J6 treadmill is getting a bit tired these days. It actually just shut off on me during my brick run last Saturday. It has served me well for the couple hundred dollars I paid for several years ago, but we both agreed it was time for an upgrade.

I have also learned to embrace the treadmill lately. I used to be a bit more “macho” and run outside no matter what, but I am totally over that now. I have nothing to prove there anymore and I am more than happy to chug along for miles while watching TV or or some videos. I also tend to get this wheeziness in my lungs when I do any intense activity in very cold temperatures. My wife used to refer to this as my “hockey cough” when I would come home late at night after playing ice hockey and be wheezing and coughing in bed. I obviously inherited the athsmatic-ness of my mother and grandfather.

I started doing some research online and found a few brands and features that I thought were important. I made the rounds to several shops in the area and tested them out. The LifeSpan TR4000i was one model that struck my eye online. It had good reviews and was rated highly by Consumer Reports and Runner’s world, but no one had any in stock to try. One shop had a TR1200i, but it was not setup correctly,  so it was making all kinds of noise running on it. Not a good sell. Their price was also a bit higher than the online price of the 4000i, so I bagged that.

I headed down to Quakertown to FItness Factory Outlet which states they have the 4000i on their website. When I got there he stated that he only sold that online. He did have a bunch of these Spirit treadmills in the showroom. I tried them all and was very impressed. The price was right too. I went home and did some research on them and it turns out Consumer Reports also recommended the Spirit 485 higher than the 4000i I was looking at before. It also had a little better warranty too. So after thinking it over for a few days, I made the call to purchase!


I was pretty excited to hear that they had the model I wanted in stock, so I figured they would deliver in a day or so. I was told that the delivery guy would call me later that day to setup delivery. When he called I was a bit disappointed to find out they were about a week behind on deliveries. We agreed on the following Saturday to setup and deliver.

The driver arrived promptly at 10:30am with my treadmill. They carried the large box in and started setting it up. Eventually they called me down to report that the main wire adapter from the panel to the motor was broken. They were very apologetic, but I knew it was not their fault. They said that the Fitness Factory Outlet guys would get back to me. I psyched when the called me in a couple hours and said they had a wire from another unit and would be up in an hour to finish assembling it.

Spirit Fitness xt485 Treadmill 1

Spirit Fitness xt485 Treadmill 1

Spirit Fitness xt485 Treadmill Deck

Spirit Fitness xt485 Treadmill Deck

Spirit Fitness xt485 Treadmill Console

Spirit Fitness xt485 Treadmill Console

Stay tuned for a future post on my actual review of the unit after I get some use out of it. So far so good though!

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.

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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!

Training Log-Prep Week 4-Winter Prevails

Another prep week down. Cold temperatures and snow make for some additional training challenges this year. Last season I think we had it pretty easy. No worries though. This is all part of it and it makes you mentally stronger dealing with these little obstacles. This week I ramped up to around 9 hours despite even taking Monday off.

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Cold and windy temps kept me working out indoors all week. Except for Sunday where I did get out for a good snowing run.

 

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Only got in 2 bike trainer rides this week, but I replaced my Thursday workout with a Ice Hockey game. I sub for my work hockey team and this was only the third time I played this season. Although I felt I had the fitness, my hockey skills were a bit lacking. Oh well, I can’t do everything I guess. Managed to get 3 good runs and swims in too.

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Fitness(blue) levels are rising nice and gradual. Fatigue is creeping up a bit too, but one more week and then it is winter vacation time. Hope to get a little R&R in between downhill and skate-skiing. Eventually the pink line will drop down and the yellow will come up meeting the blue in the middle somewhere.

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The hours are increasing…

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After a snowy weekend, I was relieved to get out of the house and rid myself of the cabin fever. It was the first time I got to test out my new YakTrax Pro’s. I previously used regular YakTrax which worked fine, but I thought these would be much more subtle. They work good on ice and less deep snow, but deeper snow is still a struggle.

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A snowy Bob Rodale Fitness Park

A snowy Bob Rodale Fitness Park

Honda Fit

The Triathlon Mobile

Snowy Tracks

Snowy Tracks

White Out Conditions

White Out Conditions

Post-run selfie

Post-run selfie

 

And a moment of Zen…

Training Log-Prep Week 2-One Extreme To The Other

Captains view in the Pain Cave. Spending lots a time here these days.

Captains view in the Pain Cave. Spending lots a time here these days.

My second Prep week of 2014 has seen almost every possible type of weather has seen snow, rain, thunder, lightning, heavy winds and temperatures from -3 to 50 deg F. It has been one of the strangest weeks of weather I have seen. But rest assured, Donald Trump says that there is no Global Warming…

 

Regardless of the extremes, training marches on. The highlight of the week was my TrainerRoad FTP test on Thursday. I had done the 8 Min FTP test back in November to set a baseline FTP for my Preparation phase. I ended up with a somewhat depressing 207 watt FTP which seemed to become invalid pretty quickly during the Intermediate Base II Plan on TrainerRoad. All my rides quickly ended up with Intensity Factors(IF) in the .90 and above. Even on rides that were rated to be much lower than that. I was very eager to retest again to get things on track and was very happy when I came up with a new FTP of 234 watts. I also ended up dropping a few pounds too, which gave me a 2.82 watts/kg.

My Performance Management Chart on Training Peaks should now be a little more precise since the IF’s are more correct. The high IF ratings before were showing that my Fatigue(ATL) was much higher than what was reality.

TrainingPeaks-Performance Management Chart - Jan 12 2014

TrainingPeaks-Performance Management Chart – Jan 12 2014

The rest of the week consisted of mostly aerobic endurance type work. I am planning on doing a graded run test on the treadmill next week to set my baseline for my run fitness for the year. I had a nice 45 minute LSD swim on Friday night which ended with around 2000m. I am amazed that I am able to maintain that fitness throughout the off-season. I really felt like I could have done twice that much. I can’t wait to get to some open water swimming this Spring and Summer.

I have also been working on my Annual Training Plan(ATP) for the season while working through Joe Friels’ Triathlon Training Bible. I sort using that and also my prior season to try to tailor this seasons training along with changes to help the areas I would like to improve on. It is pretty interesting and I am gettin into the “techy” side it. Now that I have a true power meter on my bike I can get more accurate TSS readings.

I have also been playing around with using my Cycleops PowerCal for quantify some runs using Power. Usually you only have heart rate for running, but the PowerCal uses heart rate to calculate power. It doesn’t do well for instantaneous power, but for an workout average it is pretty accurate.

On Sunday, I got over to the Lehigh Parkway for my longer run of the week. It was a really nice day with highs in the 50’s, but the path was a bit messy to say the least. There was also some leftover ice in places which made things a little sketchy. I ended up with about 7.5 miles in 1:15. It was actually a better run than my time showed since I stopped to take some pictures and never stopped my Garmin.

Downstream-Lehigh Parkway

Downstream-Lehigh Parkway

High Water near Runners Bridge-Lehigh Parkway

High Water near Runners Bridge-Lehigh Parkway

A little mushy-Lehigh Parkway

A little mushy-Lehigh Parkway

 

I was listening to the latest Rich Roll Podcast on my run today. His guest was Charlie Engle who will be running from LA, across the country, and finishing in Boston and running the Boston Marathon. He is doing with another guy who will be in a wheelchair. It is a pretty amazing story. It is called Run2Boston so if you are interested check it out. You can also check out this story on Runner’s World.

 

Cooper-Norcross Run The Bridge 10k-A Birthday 10k PR!

I had never run a 10k in my entire life until this year when I ran the Celtic Classic 10k in Bethlehem, PA this September. Since it was my first 10k it was obviously a PR, but I also came in 3rd place in my age group. I had then run another one in October as part of the Runner’s World Hat Trick, but didn’t PR since I had run a PR 5k immediately before that. My wife really wanted to run in an event on a birthdays(we are a day apart) but she did not have time to prepare for a half-marathon. So instead she found the Cooper-Norcross Run the Bridge 10k in Camden which seemed like a good alternative. Unfortunately, she ended up aggravating a metatarsal injury a couple weeks before and decided not to run at all. Now, I would be running by myself again and so I might as well try to better my 10k again.

I really didn’t have too much confidence I would do so. I had not run very much in the two weeks after the Runner’s World Hat Trick so I wasn’t sure how my fitness would hold up. I also knew that running bridges can be pretty tough from my experience at Ironman 70.3 Miami. They are like a big hill with no protection from any winds that may be blowing. The event started at the NJ side toll booth and went across to the PA side, turned around and came back and then through streets of downtown Camden, NJ(Yikes!!).

We decided to make a weekend out of it and stay overnight in Penn’s Landing. We got a room at the Holiday Inn Express Penn’s Landing right near Dave & Buster’s. It was a nice hotel, except that we were not able to check in until later that night after dinner. We ended up having to change in our car in the parking lot before walking to dinner. They also charged us $25 to park at the hotel, which is a ripoff too.

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Fall Colors in Washington Square Park

We walked to dinner at Talula’s Garden right next to Independence Hall. It was a really good farm-to-table restaurant, but they only had one vegetarian option on the menu which I thought was a bit sparse for this type of place. Regardless, it was very good. I had a pumpkin entrée and root vegetables with a Fegley’s Imperial Pumpkin ale. Definitely worth a stop if you are in town. Make reservations ahead of time though since they fill up fast.

2013-11-02 16.59.16 HDR

Independence Hall

When we got back to the hotel and finally got a room, we then had to deal with the most obnoxious neighbors in the room next to us. It sounded like a bunch of really drunk guys and they must have been practicing for a WWF match since they kept banging into the walls and yelling at the top of their lungs. I could not believe how anyone could have regard at all for others in a hotel. Fortunately they were not there too long and must have headed back out again since it had gotten quiet again.

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Washington Square Park Pano

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Liberty Bell at Night

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Night shot of i-95 and Ben Franklin Bridge from Market St. Bridge.

Just I had started drifting into some heavy REM sleep, I was woken up around 2:15am by our obnoxious neighbors walking down Columbus Blvd 4 floors below. It wasn’t too long before they were then heard banging on peoples doors as they made their way down the hall from the elevator. The steel cage match began again in the room and they were yelling at one of their compadres to “GET UP!!” who had most-likely passed out from their night of partying. Thankfully, before too long I heard a loud pounding knock on their down followed by a deep voice stating that he was “SECURITY!” Thank YOU!!! The noise immediately dropped a few decibels and then I heard some mumbling conversation and the door closing. The noise picked up a little bit and then slowly faded into silence again.

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Ben Franklin Bridge, Delaware River and Camden Waterfront night shot.

I had drifted back to sleep and didn’t wake again until my alarm went off at 5:30am. Not a bad night sleep considering. I slammed down a banana and few bars for breakfast before heading down to the lobby. Our car was parked in and I had to warn the car park attendant we needed to leave. He joked with me asking if I could possibly wait until later in the day to leave. When he saw my eyeballs bulging out of my sockets, he started laughing and said he was just kidding. Wise-guy!! We then grabbed some coffee and a few things at the hotel breakfast which was just opening up.

We then made our way over the bridge and into Camden. The main street down to the waterfront and Campbell’s field was a bumper-to-bumper slow go. There were about 4500 people participating in this event, so I think it is probably one of the largest 10k’s in the country. We eventually got a nice parking spot right across from the baseball park. The registration, packet pickup and finish line were all based in the Campbell’s baseball park and it was a long line to get into since they were checking everyone for security. It was a little breezy and chilly this morning, but really perfect running temperature. We picked up our race packet & t-shirts and headed back to the car. Denise was going to do the walk which basically just went back and forth over the bridge. We hung out in the car until the 8:30am start. I did some laps around the parking lot just to warm up a bit.

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Campbell’s Field and BFB

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Not often that you see us with different ages in writing. Nice to be younger for a day!

The race started at the bridge toll booths which were almost a mile away from the baseball park. We made the long slog with the rest of the herd of participants down Pearl St. which paralleled the bridge on the south side. We reached the start of the bridge and parted ways. I got into the 8 min/mi pace area which I thought was safe. It was a bit warmer being in the herd of people since it blocked the wind a bit and provided some body heat. Before long the horn blew and we were off.

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Starting crowd back to the BFB NJ Toll Booth

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The Starting Gate – BFB

On the climb up to the crest I was feeling really good despite the incline and it got even better on the decline. Making the turn on the PA side and heading back started to get a little tougher. I was only running an 8:11 pace for the first mile(about 2/3rds of span of the bridge) which would explain why it felt easy. I am sure that some of that was also dealing with navigating people too. I passed the leaders, going the other way, as I was almost to the PA side which surprised me a bit. I eventually hit the crest of the bridge and was relieved that it should be mostly downhill or flat from here. Time to turn it up a notch. I should be running mid 7:00’s from here on out.

I passed Denise, who was coming up the other side, as I was heading down to Camden. She shot the picture above as I passed. The hat came off as I got off the bridge and was starting to really heat up. I played around with stuffing it in my shorts, but it kept falling out so I just stuck it in my little pocket where I normally put my keys.

Photo Nov 03, 8 50 27 AM

Wow…I didn’t realize that hat looks that dorky. Glad I took it off eventually. So far still chipper.

The course was pretty flat as it made its way through the streets of downtown Camden. It didn’t really seem that bad there, but that could be cause it was 9am in the morning too. We did hit a little incline as we ran through Wiggins’ Waterfront Park along the Camden waterfront , which I wasn’t expecting. It seemed much bigger than it probably was. The worst part of the race was when we were heading down Delaware Ave and Campbell’s field was firmly in view. I started thinking just hold it flat straight down this street and then we had to make a hard right up Market St. taking us farther out of the way. It played with my head a bit, but it was only around the block so before I knew it we were back on Delaware Ave again. Then down into the back of the baseball park to the finish line. I tried to scan the people lining the finishing chute looking for Denise, but I never saw her. Apparently, she was still walking. I had my phone strapped to my arm, so I texted her to let her know I finished.

I crossed the line as the clock had read 27:58. I was pretty confident I was going to PR this one most of the way since I was holding pretty steady 7:30 pace. My previous PR was a 7:54 so that was fairly easy to figure out. I also knew that it had taken my at least 10 secs or more to reach the start line, so I was definitely under the clock time. I got my finisher medal and a couple bottles of water as I waited for Denise to show up. She eventually turned up and we headed up the stands into the concourse of the park. They had tables with food, but it was a lot of processed junk, so I just grabbed a couple bananas and a bagel that I never actually ate. I guess it should not be surprising that the food was processed junk since it was probably donated by Campbell’s Soup Corporation.

All-in-all it was a pretty fun birthday weekend. It was a shame that Denise could not run the event too, but she made a smart decision since she really wants to run the Pittsburgh Half Marathon next May. I was pretty happy to have PR-ed my 10k for the second time this season and on the day before my 45th birthday too. Hopefully I can keep getting better with age!!

I think that will conclude my running events for this year. I am planning on taking totally off from running now for at least a couple weeks and let the legs recover a bit. I am going to start getting back in the pool regularly and on the bike trainer too. I also have a spare bathroom that needs completion before another triathlon season starts up again. Thanks for reading!

2013 Runner’s World Half Marathon & Festival Hat Trick

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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!