Super Hero Halloween Half Marathon ’17 Recap

I ran the Super Hero Halloween Half Marathon on Saturday, October 21st. I really enjoyed this race. Here is a race recap from this well organized and interesting course.

Unlike most half marathons, this one took place on a Saturday morning and started at 10:00 am, a little later than normal. It was really nice to have a later start time as I only live about 20-25 minutes from Morristown. I was able to wake up at my normal time and not be rushed at all. Originally, I planned to leave around 8:00 am for the race but ended up walking out of the door around 8:30. I figured it would take around a half hour to get there and parked so no big deal at all. All I had to do was get my flipbelt ready with fuel, drink a Gatorade, stretch, and do a short warm up job, so I still had plenty of time. It actually worked out better that I left then or else I would’ve just been standing around.

This race starts right off of South Street, which is where a lot of stores, bars, and restaurants are. There is a parking garage two blocks away which I think is very convenient. Super Hero Racing uses the same site for the Pre-Game 4 Miler so I felt at ease with the pre-race logistics.

This half marathon was five weeks after I ran the Newport Liberty Half Marathon. After the Newport Liberty Half, I decided I had five weeks to really push myself while I was training. I wasn’t happy with how my training went prior to the Newport Liberty Half. I know five weeks wasn’t going to get me back to challenge my time at The New Jersey Half Marathon, but I knew if I worked hard I could chip away at the time. I felt the five weeks included a lot of great runs. Honestly, I felt good about almost all of them. I was running a lot faster paces then I was leading into the Newport Liberty Half.

I didn’t get a great night of sleep two nights prior but I got a pretty good one the night before.

I decided to take off the two days prior to the half marathon this time. On Thursday, I did a lot of walking but nothing else. Tried to get off my feet when I could. Friday, besides a field trip to a farm with my daughter’s class, I was able to get off my feet. I hydrated well on Friday and Saturday prior to the race.

The weather was great for this race. Couldn’t ask for it to be better. Right around 70 degrees and humidity was low around 25-30%. Beautiful blue skies and sunny.

This race has pacers. I decided to slot myself in the corral near the 2:00 pacer. I listened to some of his advice prior to the start. After running an over 2:11 half five weeks prior, I wasn’t expecting to run at 2:00 but decided I would use him to pace the first few miles of the race.

The race started and it’s a bit congested in the beginning. There were about My800 runners in the race but the first three streets are a little tight in the beginning. I knew once we hit the main rode it would thin out. I just went with the pace of the pack until then.

When you hit the main road, it’s a gradual incline. I knew what to expect as the Pre-Game 4 Miler has you running in the opposite direction for this part of the race. It’s always interesting to run the opposite way.

I felt pretty good getting out of the gate and taking on the incline. My legs felt fresh. You then hit a pretty steep downhill, where you can get speed. I’ve been letting myself going on these, not holding back. I feel like I run them faster by doing this and actually catch my breathe. I knew that was important as a big hill was on the horizon.

I hit the steep incline and told myself to run it. Pass people. Go for it. Don’t kill myself but don’t take it easy. It’s early in the race, I let’s get through this one. I think it would’ve messed with me more mentally if it was a training run but I was amped up at this point and what I was a little nervous about turned into a mental boost once I hit the top.

The good thing was I knew there was another downhill coming up. Again, just let myself loose for it. I passed another pack of runners figuring, hey, if it feels good and you’re not killing yourself, go for it.

At this point, you’re about 2 1/2 miles into the race and hit about a 2 1/2 mile stretch (from miles 2 1/2 – 5) that you end up running the opposite way starting a little bit after mile 9. You run up an incline, which is for the overpass over Rt. 287, and then hit the decline of the overpass on the other side.

The roads at this point are all closed, so you basically have four lanes of road to run over.

Right before mile 4, you pass through the area that they use for the relay transition area. There are a lot of people cheering on at this point which was great. It does get a little tight in this area as you have lots of relay runners waiting to go, people crossing the street, and fans that are in the road.

You then run through a few winding roads with beautiful homes. I was still very close with the 2:00 pacer as I hit mile 5 and thought to myself, wow, who knows maybe I can go for it today. Just keep running the best you can.

Right after mile 5, you turn into Loantaka Brook Reservation, so it’s a paved park trail with lots of twists and turns. I had never run this part and couldn’t drive it two days before, so I didn’t know what to expect. I don’t know why but I was expecting it to be more flat. Lots of ups and downs it seemed.

Due to all of the quick twists and turns, along with it being all woods around, I couldn’t see the pacer anymore. I had no idea how far ahead he was from me. I kept within pace of the runners I could see a few yards ahead of me though and figured that would be good for my pace.

Just after mile 6, I decided to eat my Honey Stinger energy chews. Well, not sure why, but I totally coughed at one point and a piece of one of them went down the wrong way. All I thought was, oh great, I’m going to end up puking from a chew, not from the run. Drank some more Gatorade but coughed here and there for about two to three minutes from it. I slowed up a little just to make sure I was okay during that period.

While I was running through the woods, I kept thinking to myself I should stop and pee. I made the error of using the porta potty too early prior to the race and when the race started I had to go. I was about an hour into the run at this point and throughout it, was like I really have to go. I didn’t want to be that guy though that relieved myself along the course, so I kept running. I figured next time I see a porta potty, I’ll decide if I have to go. Right around 7 1/2 miles in, there was one porta potty. I decided I would stop to use. That was until, I swear, the one lady about 10 yards ahead of me, decided to veer off and use it. I was like what are the odds. The immediate person in front of me lol. At that point, I said just keep going. I’m not going to stop and wait.

As you just pass mile 8, you turn back onto Woodland Avenue and at this point you are sharing the road with traffic. Most of it is an incline. You run on the shoulder of the road. For the amount of runners in the race, I was pleasantly surprised at the decent amount of runners around me at this point.

Just past mile 9, you start running that part of the course that you run the opposite way. You turn back into the neighborhood, off the busy road, so you feel a little bit safer with more space.

You hit the relay transition area again and I was a little surprised at the amount of people that were still there. I just assumed it would thin out once the transitions were all completed. It was nice to hearing all of the cheers again at this point. A good pick me up.

A little bit after mile 11, I knew the steep incline for the 287 overpass was coming up. All of the sudden, I felt this cramp hit my lower left calf/achilles area. I was like no, not now. I have two miles to go, I’m happy with my time and pace. I slowed up because I knew with the incline coming up this might be an issue. All of the sudden I felt a cramp in my right leg, same area. Then one in my lower thigh on my left leg. I kept telling myself, one and half miles to go. Just finish. Just finish. No matter what the time, just finish.

This is where the course gets interesting. It’s a lot of hills/inclines at this point. Everything is up. You don’t get any downhills. I didn’t realize it prior to the race. I haven’t run a race where you’re basically running up a hill for the lasts one and half miles. It was interesting.

I got through them all and I knew I was close. My legs would get a quick cramp that would go away quickly and I just kept mentally strong telling myself you’re right there. Just finish it.

People were cheering along the sidewalks so I knew the turn was close. When I hit the final turn, normally I sprint as hard as I can to finish. On this day, I was worried if I tried to sprint I’d cramp so I did pick up my pace but made sure I was running through the finish.

I put up three fingers to note my third half marathon and was pretty proud when I saw the time. I finished in 2:06:38 for a 9:39 pace. I ran exactly 5 minutes faster than the Newport Liberty Half Marathon. Considering that was a pancake flat course and this had lots of hills, I was really proud of this run. I knew minus the cramping, I could have run cut some time off of this race but I was still very happy with it. Nothing beats when you are just proud of what you accomplished. Sure, it wasn’t a PR, or even close to a PR, but I was very proud of myself.

I got my awesome medal right after finishing and immediately went to the porta potty. I joked that it was harder to go the 50 yards to them then it was to run the race.

Once I was done, I went straight to the Gatorade and water tables. I drank a lot to rehydrate. I had run with a water bottle that had 32 ounces of water in it and drank a few cups at the aid stations on the course. I just seem to sweat like none other. Still working on this.

I went over to cheer on other runners as they finished. Saw some really cool costumes during this race. Lots of super heroes, a bunch of guys dressed up as bananas, and one guy as Forrest Gump. I don’t think I could ever run in a costume but give props to all those that do. It is fun. 

The race was definitely well organized, the course was nice and I thought a good challenging. I was happy with my performance. Overall, I think it was a great race and I will definitely look at running this one again next year.

 

Questions for you:

  • Have you ever run in a costume?
  • Do you prefer flat courses or courses with hills?
  • Do you prefer larger or smaller fields of participants?
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Here We Go Again!

Sometimes, all it takes is a price increase to make you take that leap and sign up for a race. 

That is exactly what happened to me two nights ago. After discussing it with my wife, I signed up to run the 2018 New Jersey Half Marathon on April 29th.

After completing The New Jersey Half Marathon this past April, I promised myself I would come back to see how much I could improve over one year. Run the same race and course and use it as motivation for my training. 

I liked this course. I’ll forever love this race because it was my first. It’s six and a half months, but hey, if you know you want to run, sign up and save some money. Plus, I feel like the more races I sign up for, the more it will hold me accountable. It’ll keep me training. I won’t rev up my training for this event until after the new year, but I have other races with varying distances from now until 2018.

I think I’ll probably sign up for another half marathon in March or run the Garden State 10 Miler again. I’ll start looking to see what makes sense. I think I’m going to try and throw my name into the NYC Half Marathon. I want to research it more though. If not that race, maybe Atlantic City or possibly West Point. I was looking at the half marathon in Montclair, but $130 is a bit stiff of a price at this point. We’ll see.

It seems crazy to sign up for something that is over a half year away but I’m going to make this my top race of 2018. I love knowing what I did last year to give me that extra motivation for training over the cold, winter months. So, here’s to great training in the months ahead and cracking 1:58:00 in Long Branch on April 29th.

Here we go again! 

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Runspirational Reflections 10/9/17

I’ve decided that I need to write more blog posts again and get back into the run of things. My blog posts can be on the longer side, so I’m going to try and get a few fast entries in regularly. I’ve decided to call these “Runspirational Reflections”.  So here is the first of many. Let me know your thoughts on this.

  1. Last week was a great week of training. I felt like I was hitting on all cylinders. It was probably my best week of training since The New Jersey Half Marathon. I decided I needed to step it up after the Newport Liberty Half Marathon results. I know my times aren’t where I want them but when you push yourself and your runs, you know you’ll get there.
  2. It’s been raining all day here in NJ. With a 3 mile run on tap today, I decided to go enjoy it out in the rain. It was actually a bit refreshing and felt good. It was a slower pace run, so I was able to really make sure I avoided puddles and any slippery surfaces. I was soaked when I was done but sometimes it feels great to get a good run done in the rain.
  3. It appears I’m in need of one or two new pairs of running sneakers. I like to rotate three during the week. The one pair is completely done in as the tread is missing in some areas. A second pair look like bald tires. Good thing is, I was lucky to do a search and found out Asics has a lot more of the 18 Gel Nimbus on their website at a discounted rate. I had two pairs of those and loved them. Thinking about order two more. I love the end of year or a year old model that you can get cheaper.
  4. It was so awesome to read all of the tweets about the Chicago Marathon in my Twitter feed from a lot of the runspirational runners I follow. I’ve been trying to like and comment on each but know I will miss some. Just wanted to say congratulations to all. What a great feat!
  5. Speaking of the Chicago Marathon, fantastic job by Galen Rupp and my favorite runner, Jordan Hasay. Galen was the first American male to win Chicago since 2002.  Jordan finished with the second fastest American female time ever (2:20:57). They are both truly runspirational.
  6. I’m working on the next Runspirational 13.1 Q&A. It will go live this week, so be on the look out for that. Speaking of 13.1 Q&A, let me know if you have any interest in participating.
  7. The New Jersey Half Marathon released a new website. The rate for both the marathon and half marathon increases on 10/11. The half goes from $75 to $100. As long as my wife is on board, I will be signing back up for this event to see how I do year over year.

Questions for You

  1. When was your last great week of training?
  2. Do you like running in the rain?
  3. What did you think of the Chicago Marathon?
  4. Will you buy older shoe models or no looking back for you?
  5. When do you start planning on your 2018 races?

 

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Newport Liberty Half Marathon 2017 Review

Honestly, I’m not really sure where to start with this one. There are so many areas I want to write about but for this post I’m just going to focus on the race itself. I’m going to add a few more posts with some of my thoughts on my training for this half marathon later on.

So, on Sunday, September 17th, I ran in my second half marathon, the Newport Liberty Half Marathon in Jersey City, NJ. Yes, I know this is late, I’ve just been busy with things and am going to try to post more regularly again.

I’ve had my eye on this half marathon for a few years. I figured if I was I was ever going to run or start running half marathons, I wanted to complete this one. Since  it’s a fall race though, I always have to wait for the NFL schedule to be posted so I can see when the Giants home games are. Ah, the life of a season ticket holder. This year, everything broke right. The Giants were home on Monday night (ugh let’s not talk about the game though), allowing me to run in this half marathon. So glad I was able to.

I went to bed a little later than normal before a race, but was good about resting the day before. I didn’t run on Friday or Saturday, as that was noted as off days on my training program. I got up at 5:40 am, ate a bagel, hydrated, showered, got dressed, finished packing my bag and was out the door by 6:40. I decided to get a cup of coffee for the ride. I’ve only drank a cup of coffee before one race, the Garden State 10 Miler, and figured I wanted to try it out again since that day went so well.

Jersey City is not too far from my home when there is no traffic. Luckily, at 7 am on a fall Sunday morning, there is no traffic at all. I got there in about 25 minutes. The longest part of the drive was the line getting into the Newport Mall Parking Garage. Side note, the race organizers did a fantastic job with parking. It’s about two blocks from the finish and literally right in front of the start. They had staff directing traffic. I was impressed.

This race had a lot of people working/volunteering and I thought was smoothly run. The MC did a great job as well. They had plenty of water, Gatorade, bagels, bananas, etc. after the race. Bib pick up and t-shirt pick up was quick and easy. I left my bag in the car, so I don’t know how the bag check worked. I thought the bathroom situation was really good for the number of runners. They had plenty of them and I went about a half hour before the race and there was no line at all. The course had directional markers all over, each mile marker had the time, plenty of aid stations, and volunteers throughout the course. Kudos to the event staff all around. I thought it was run great.

I stretched by my car and then ran a slow quarter mile warm up. I figured this would help me a little in the beginning but limit the distance run. My plan was to start out not as fast as the past half marathon to allow my legs time to warm up and hopefully not hit a wall again late in the race.

OK, so back to the race. Their were pace markers in the corral so I lined up around the 9:00 pace since that is what I ran at The New Jersey Half Marathon. I waited for a few minutes and listened to the speeches from the MC, Mayor Fullop, the COO of Jersey City Medical Center, and then the National Anthem that was beautifully sung.

Finally, we were off. The race started out going north on Washington Blvd. and turning up 18th Street. I felt good. Staying with the pack. Everyone seemed to be in high spirits with a lot of talking going on. It’s always interesting listening to others during races. Turned on to Jersey Ave. for a few blocks and then on 16th St. where we hit mile 1. Time looked good to me and the pack was still numerous but thinning.

On a side note, I used to work in Hoboken/Jersey City, so I knew the streets around Newport pretty well. A lot has changed in the past almost seven years but that’s more of run down buildings or vacant lots now having new high-rises on them. In fact, there are a few buildings in the area I actually named. It’s my claim to fame.

A quick turn on to Marin Blvd., and then back down to Washington Blvd. where I started to feel more gaps in the pack. You end up running past the start line (from the opposite way) and past the finish line and mile marker 2 , so you get to run through a cheering section again which is nice.

The first aid station was about a third of the way into mile 2. I started the race carrying a 32-ounce water bottled filled with Gatorade using my BottleBand (seriously they are awesome) so I was able to run past the aid station and get away from the crowd. I made sure I took drinks from my bottle as I passed aid stations.

The race turned on to Grand St., where you pass mile marker 3, which I totally missed. Must have been in deep thought. You’re on Grand for about a mile and actually go pass where mile marker 11 is.

Then it’s a left onto Pacific Ave. This was the street where a bunch of us had to merge over due to a parked car on the course out of nowhere. Thankfully no trips occurred.

A left on to Johnston Ave. and you hit mile 4. About a third of the way on your run, you actually get off the road and onto a sidewalk where for a little bit you are kind of running two by two. Not much room to pass people but at that point most of us were running a similar pace so it was fine. I’ve never ran a race where the course narrowed like this but it worked out fine. Then as it starts to spread out you hit another aid station. At this point you’re technically in Liberty State Park.

Right before mile 5 is where you truly turn into Liberty State Park. A few quick turns and then you’re running along a paved park trail along Freedom Way. You can see the Hudson River in a distance and at this point you can see some of the faster runners ahead of you on the course. I thought that was kind of neat to see them in a distance since the course kind of zig zags.

Around mile 6 was another aid station. Right after that, a woman that was right in front o me tripped and went flying. I asked if she was OK and she said she was and got back up running. I hope she was OK for the rest of the race. Tripping on a long run like that just sucks.

Finally, you make a left and start running directly towards the Statue of Liberty. This had to be my favorite part of the race. At this point, I was drenched, trying to stay hydrated. I knew the humidity just wasn’t meant for a great time and I decided to really take in the sights of this race and to just enjoy it. You literally get so close to the Lady Liberty that you feel like you can reach out and touch her. A few runners even stopped to take selfies.

At this point I was running along the boardwalk along the Hudson River. Views of the Statue of Liberty, Ellis Island, and downtown Manhattan including the Freedom Tower. It was very motivating and emotional.

Passed mile 7 and then a quick turn. As you make the turn, other runners ahead of you are running at you and turning back to the other way. Again, I kind of enjoyed this, to see them all busting their butts.

A few more quick turns before it was back onto the boardwalk where another aid station was. At this point, I had drank my entire water bottle of Gatorade and threw it out in the garbage. Don’t worry I got a great deal on Amazon where it cost me $2 per bottle since I bought six of them. I got a lot of use out of it while training too. Since I was at the race alone, I knew I would have to dispose of it on the course and couldn’t hand it off to someone. At this point, I was just sweating buckets. I decided that I needed to continue to hydrate a lot so I would drink 2-4 cups at each station.  If you’ve read my previous blogs, you’ll know I have issues running and trying to drink out of a cup. Due to that and knowing it was a rough day, I decided to walk through each aid station so I could drink the 2-4 cups.

Finally, I hit the 180 turnaround. It felt good to be going back towards the finish. Looking at the skyline. Seeing the runners going the other way. Between miles 8 and 9, there were a bunch of more turns. This race has to have the most turns ever. About a third of the way through 9, I hit another aid station and took my time. The volunteers at this station were so friendly.

Along the long stretch to mile 10, it was pretty spread out with gaps without runners. One guy though was running around the same pace as me. Going back and forth. We were definitely pushing one another. He turned to me at one point and was like “you’re doing a fantastic job”. In my mind all I was thinking “Really, I feel like sh!t, so that’s good.” It definitely made me feel good at a time in the race where the some negative thoughts like “why the f#ck am I doing this” creep in. It gave me an extra kick that was missing. Motivation. I turned and said “Thank you. So are you. Keep it up.” Sometimes it’s just the simple things that you need. The best part though, I saw him after the race sitting down on the curb. I went right up to him, shook his hand, and said great race and thank you so much for pushing me. Timing is everything.

It was back on to Grand, for the only significant portion of the course that we were running the opposite direction. Past mile 11 and the crowd support was pretty good for this area of the course. Crowds always help. Quick turn on Hudson where I think the most enthusiastic police officer ever was directing traffic. She reminded me of a coach. Just absolutely yelling words of encouragement.

Finally it was back on to the waterfront. This is where I feel mind games always happen. It did in the New Jersey Half Marathon. I know I’m close to the end but misjudge how far. I feel like after every turn I’m almost there and then get hit in the face realizing oh lawd I’m not. I think this is just course prep. I didn’t study either half course.

It was along this part that I passed by the 9/11 Memorial. It’s directly across the river from the WTC with a front row view of the Freedom Tower and what used to be the Twin Towers. This part was very emotional, especially with it being just six days after the 16th Anniversary.

I hit mile 12 and it was a turn and another quick turn. Then I saw a runner on the ground being attended too with employees from the hotel running out to help. It is so refreshing to see how so many are willing to help others in their time of need. I hope that runner was okay, it appeared to be dehydration.

I tried picking up my pace here as much as I could as I knew I was only a mile out. A bunch more turns and finally back out to the road where the crowd was awesome along Washington St. I really picked up my pace. I knew it wasn’t the best day but I was going to finish as strong as I could. I hit the final right and ran as fast as I could through the finish. I made sure to put up two fingers to indicate my second half marathon. I thought there would be photos but I’m not sure at this point if there were.

Finished in 2:11:38 for a 10:02 pace. I was OK with this. It was a big drop off from the New Jersey Half Marathon, which I ran in 1:58:00, but I know my t
raining was nowhere close to as good this time. I also think the humidity added a few minutes to what I thought I’d run. My FitBit Surge had me at a 9:45 pace, as it showed me running 13.51 miles. I think this is probably closer to what I did. My GPS had me run 13.4 miles or so for my other half. Do any of you show longer distances run for half marathons?

After the race, I picked up my medal. Got two cups of water and then made my way over to the Gatorade and water. I think I drank about three of each. I walked around for a little and noticed I was little wobbly. I decided to ask someone to take a photo of me with the Freedom Tower in the background. Picked up a bagel, moved over to the fence along the water to just relax and take in the sights. I could barely eat but forced about half down. I took a little walk and found a place to sit. I sat for about 15 minutes or so but was worried I wouldn’t be able to get up haha. Finally, after a few minutes of pumping myself up, I tried and was successful at getting up. I walked back up to the finish line to cheer on more runners as they finished.

At this point, they started doing giveaways, where I won a free month membership to a gym in Jersey City along with a t-shirt. If you know anyone in Jersey City that’s interested in a free month, let me know.

Overall, I think this race was well run. I backdrop is amazing. So much to look at. The aid stations were good. The different surfaces throughout made it interesting. All of the turns isn’t ideal but again, it makes this race unique. The course is very flat. Just a few small inclines. Pre and post race flowed easily. Parking was simple. Definitely enjoyed this one.

My next half marathon is on Saturday, October 21st. I’m looking forward to pushing myself at this next one.

  • Did you run the Newport Liberty Half Marathon? What did you think of it?
  • When you run half marathons, how much difference in mileage does your GPS watch show?
  • What is the most scenic half marathon course you’ve run?
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Never Say Never

Never say never.

We all have things we have said we would never do. Sometimes, we end up facing those fears, doubts, or  dreams we thought couldn’t happen. We take on the task of conquering what seemed like it could never be a reality head on. We push ourselves through hard work and dedication to show ourselves how strong we are. We knock down those doubts and break through those fears to accomplish what once seemed like a never.

That is exactly what happened this past Tuesday evening. A 3.1 mile (5K) run around the reservoir at South Mountain Reservation.  Someone who said they would never and I mean never ever run, not only started running but ran a 5K. This happened in less than two months after starting to run and train. Oh, and as an added bonus, not only was the goal of running and completing a 5K achieved, a goal time was defeated.

That someone is my wife.

My wife has always supported and encouraged me to train. She has called me out knowing it would motivate me more at exactly the right times. She always said she would never run. Quite honestly, I had never seen her run. After about 10 years of being together, we had a funny conversation that included things like I hate running, you’ll never see me run, I don’t run, nope never going to happen.

During my NJ Half Marathon training, I started saying to her that I bet you start running. I know you’re going to run a race. It’s contagious. It’s spreading around our group of friends. You’re going to do it. To which I would get, nope, not going to happen. Never!

For me, it was different being there, being the support this time and not the runner. It was a good different. A proud different. I got to spend time with my kids cheering on and supporting mommy. Something the three of them have done for me during almost all of my races. I got to be the one holding the camera this time.  To see how proud she was running to the finish line. To see the runner’s face as they crossed the finish line, eyes lighting up as they saw a time they didn’t think was possible. To say congratulations on a great run. To listen to the details of the race and how happy she was to complete it. 

I guess you could say it was a first for both of us. A first I was proud to be a part of. A first of many I’m sure.

Congratulations Angela. We are so proud of you. You have turned a ‘never’ into a feat. You’ve pushed yourself and challenged yourself to do something you thought was impossible. You are truly Runspirational. I mean it.  What you accomplished is the exact purpose and meaning of the name Runspirational. You have been inspired to run and your run to inspire has happened without you even realizing it. That’s how it works.

It inspired me to go out the next day and crank up my speed. It inspired me to push myself more during this half marathon training from here on out. It inspired me to train harder and test my limits more. Not to take it so easy. It inspired me to keep at it because you just never know who you might inspire to conquer a never.

Never say never. My wife, the runner!

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Speed Work … OK Sure!

For my first half marathon, I used a program that basically focused on distance runs. Since it was my first half marathon ever and considering I never ran a race longer than an 8K when I signed up for it, I thought this was my best option. I was worried and would question myself if I could complete 13.1 miles.

The training program was great. It worked. It got me to complete 13.1 miles in 1:58:00. I felt confident going into the race and the questions of if I could disappeared and turned more to when do I think I could finish.

Now that I am training for my second and third half marathons, I decided to take a look at other programs. I decided to go with Hal Higdon’s Advanced Half Marathon program.

As noted on his website, the training schedule begins with 400-meter repeats, but also includes 800- and 1600-meter repeats in later weeks.

I have now done a few of these work outs and wow. I have been doing the 7 x 400s and after each 400, I walk 100 meters and repeat. I’ve been cranking up my speed on these 400s. For the first few, he notes to run them at 5K pace. I’ve been running them faster though. The 100 meter walk after each 400 definitely helps. Some 400s are better than others but I continue to push.

I will jog a half mile up to the track, do my speed work out, then jog home as a cool down.

These work outs have definitely pushed me in a new way. I even said to someone the other day that I was sore after the first one. I feel right now, this kind of feels harder than just going out and running for an hour and a half. I look at that as a positive. Like I’ve built a decent long distance base and since I’m just started to add in speed, it should be hard. Don’t get me wrong, it’s all hard, but I’m sure you know what I mean.

I have a few more 8 x 400 workouts and then I move up alternating weeks of 800 or 1600 runs increasing the reps by one each week. It’ll be interesting to see where I am at the end of training.

I feel like I have a love and blah with the speed work outs so far. I love them when I’m done and during parts of it, but there are some laps I’m running when I’m a quarter of the way through and just like ugh come on.

As Hal Higdon said, “If you want to race at a fast pace, you need to train at a fast pace several days a week.”

Speed work …. ok sure!

Do you do speed work outs?
Do you like speed work outs?
What do you do for speed work outs?

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I Won My Age Group? MSDA Meghan Doyle ’05K Race Recap

Time – 25:24 (8:10 pace)   /   Age Group – 1st   /   Overall – 18th   /    Male – 12th

I won my age group in a 5K race? Get out of here. No way. And on my birthday? This must be a dream or a joke. It’s not? Wow, and there is a picture to prove it? Well more on that below. But let me talk about the race first.

The MSDA Meghan Doyle ’05K was supposed to be run in May, two weeks after the NJ Half Marathon. Due to horrible weather, the race was postponed until Saturday, June 17th. When I saw that, I knew I had to sign up for the race. It was on my birthday and the course ran mostly through the town I grew up in. I just felt like it was the perfect way to start celebrating my birthday.

Since the race started at 9:30 and was only a town over, I was able to wake up at a normal time and eat half a bagel and drink a Gatorade prior to showering and getting ready for the race. I left my house around 8:45 and drove over to Caldwell University/Mount St. Dominic Academy to park. I parked next to the MSDA gym, used the rest room quickly, stretched and started my warm up jog. I jogged for just shy of a mile. It was pretty humid for early in the morning so I started sweating quickly and while I was waiting at the starting line. 

The race was started a few years ago to honor Meghan Doyle, who was a member of the class of 2005 at the Mount. She passed away a few years ago and her family started to the 5K to help raise fund for a scholarship to the Mount. Prior to the race, Meghan’s mom, a Sister from the Mount, and a rep from Investors Bank all spoke. A student from the Mount sang the national anthem and then the runners all got set. 

Air horn and we’re off. The were only about 100 runners/walkers in the race, which was small compared to previous years, but I think part of it was due to it being rescheduled. I was up in the front due to it and got off to a fast start. The faster runners took off, as expected. I had run this course over the previous couple of weeks as part of some of my training runs, so I knew there was an uphill right after the first quarter mile. I passed two runners there as I made the right onto Fells Road.

Once on Fells, I knew it was mostly a decline for a good mile or so, so I tried picked up the pace. The faster runners pulled away and then there were about five runners about 20 yards ahead of me or so. I turned back and noticed no one else was behind me. All I thought to myself was, holy crap, am I last out of all of the runners haha. I looked at the pace on my watch which started with a seven and figured you’re going fast so it is what it is and had a good chuckle. I ran the first mile in about 7:57. 

As Fells turned into Welsh Road and then Renselaer, I knew this was the toughest part of the course. Steady incline turned into a steep incline that eventually flattened out for a short stretch and then went back to an incline. The total incline lasted for about a mile, making it pretty challenging.

Once through the incline, it was a short decline, then a right onto Hawthorne and a pretty flat for a little bit before a steep decline down Ryerson. At the bottom of the hill, it was a sharp left on flat Bloomfield Avenue, then a turn into the University and the finish line.

At first, I think I was holding back going down the steep decline but eventually let myself just go as fast as I could. I pushed it hard on Bloomfield Ave and just as I got to the final turn I could see my wife and kids right at the finish line. I gave them a big smile and wave as I sprinted the last few yards of the race. 

My wife told me I was near the front, but I had no idea honestly where I finished.

After the race, we sat by the finish line cheering on the other runners and walkers. A runner that finished a little before me looked at me and said that was a tough course. I agreed with him. As I told a few, the beginning isn’t bad and gets easy, the middle is tough, and the end is easy. Definitely one of the tougher courses I’ve raced in, maybe the toughest so far.

Then, my wife and I struck up a conversation with one of the volunteers, who we eventually learned was Meghan’s dad. He had two cow bells that they were using when runners/walkers approached the finish line. He asked my kids if they wanted to shake them and they said yes. They were great. They rang them for everyone that turned the corner. Eventually, he told us to keep them, which we thought was so nice of him. Now my kids have them to bring to other races, which is super cool and we are very thankful to the Doyle family for them.

We headed up to the softball field, got water, a banana, listened to the music and waited for the awards ceremony. They started with the overall winners, then the age categories started at the oldest, which I thought was cool.

The got to the 30-39 year old category and next thing you know, I hear my name first. Wait, what? I seriously won my age category? No lie, I never expected this to happen at any race. I knew the race was small, but still. I know an 8:10 pace is good but there’s always someone in the 6 or 7s. It definitely put a big smile on my face. I ran up to get my award, a travel coffee mug stuffed with swedish fish (love them!), bubble gum, and lifesavers. Took a photo with Mrs. Doyle and Sister and ran back with a big smile on my face to my wife and kids. 

It may never happen again and that’s fine. Even if it never happened it would be fine. It was honestly never a goal of mine to win anything at any of these races. I am more concentrated on my efforts and don’t worry about other runners. It’s still felt good though. I can always say it happened once and it’s really cool that I did on my birthday. I’ll definitely never forget how I started my 38th birthday. So happy my family could celebrate it with me.

Hopefully I can run this race next year and get more locals to join in. I can’t say anything but nice things about the Doyle Family and Mount St. Dominic Academy for putting on such a delightful race.

So have you ever run a race on your birthday?
Do you worry about where you place in a race?

I’d love to hear from you. Let me know.

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What I Think I Learned From My First Half Marathon – Part 3 of 3

Here is the final part of my reflection on training, racing, and post race from my first half marathon, The New Jersey Half Marathon in Long Branch. I’ve really enjoyed some of the feedback I’ve received and hopefully this can inspire or help someone at some point with their running. I am more than happy to answer any questions you have. As I always say, if I don’t have the answer I know a lot of great runners who I can reach out to that will gladly help. Over the summer, I will continue to work on my half marathon training and run in some local races of different shorter distances. I’m hopeful that I will continue to improve and get ready for two half marathons this fall. I’m signed up to run the Halloween Half Marathon in Morristown on Saturday, October 21st and I’m planning on signing up for the Newport Liberty Half Marathon on Sunday, September 17th. Let me know if you want to join me at either race.

Post Race – What I Did Well

  • First and foremost, I was able to spot my family right away as I crossed the finish line. I was able to celebrate and share this great accomplishment with them. As a runner, you put in a lot of time training for these long distance events. I was fully aware throughout my training how my wife and kids are part of that process too. I felt so much of this victory was theirs as much as it was mine. Many say running is an individual sport but to that individual with a family, it’s a team sport.
  • I successfully made sure I grabbed my medal and then immediately found water. I knew I had to get fluids in me. I grabbed two and stood right there and chugged the first bottle. I started on the second one while catching my breath. I made sure I grabbed a banana and a mylar blanket. I never have used a mylar blanket and was shocked at how well it worked. It kept me nice and warm, just what I needed since I was so drenched in sweat. As I walked to the exit, I saw Gatorade and quickly snatched one of them up, as well as a snack box, and a towel. The race did a great job with what was available immediately after the finish line for the runners. Don’t I look like I was hit by a truck in that post race photo? Remind me to smile next time.
  • Due to horrible communication from the race team regarding parking, my wife and kids ended up having to park a couple miles away from the finish. A nice police officer allowed them to park in a restaurants parking lot. We had purchased the finish line parking and on it, it said you take certain directions to get to the lot. Well unless you did this prior to 7:30, you couldn’t get there. It would have been nice to know that. OK, how does this tie in to what went well, it forced me to walk a couple of miles after the race. I think it helped my legs recover and not tighten up so much. Honestly, I probably wouldn’t have done it, if it wasn’t for parking so far away.
  • I checked a bag with a full set of new clothes to change into and I’m super glad I did. I was drenched and to put on a dry shirt, pants, and underwear was refreshing. I also was able to slip on my oofos, which felt great on my feet.
  • Something that wasn’t planned but I did well was help an older runner that was walking to the shuttle. He stepped up on to the curb and both his legs started cramping. He fell to the ground, yelling in pain. No one in his family knew what to do. Thankfully, I’ve been around enough athletes and trainers to see what needs to be done when a person is cramping like that. I took his one leg and started stretching it out while showing a family member how to do the other. He seemed very dehydrated and honestly, was probably in need of an IV due to his age. A police officer made his way over and at that point I was relieved and left. Hopefully, he was ok.
  • It was nice to go back to the hotel and take a shower before driving home.
  • I wore my medal all day long, including the drive up the Garden State Parkway. It’s my thing. I wear any medal I receive all day. I’m proud.
  • I made sure to enjoy a couple of beers and a nice dinner. Something about a nice cold beer after completing a goal.
  • I made sure I thanked everyone that sent me congratulations on finishing the half marathon.
  • I bought the photos of me from this race. Normally, I’d be like nah but since this was my first half marathon, I wanted to buy them, especially so I had the photos from the finish. This half marathon will always hold a special place.
  • I ended up taking two days off from running to allow my body time to rest. I went for a recovery run Wednesday to help loosen up my muscles. It was weird to take two days off but I think it was best for my body at that point. I kept telling myself it was the smart thing to do and honestly, it was earned.

Post Race – Where I Can Improve

  • I did well hydrating post race but I really didn’t eat much. I had about half a banana. I just didn’t feel well to eat anything else, so I didn’t. I think I should in the future.
  • I didn’t stretch after the race. Actually, I didn’t stretch until Wednesday. That can’t happen again. I was sore on Monday but not that bad. I still know I need to stretch after a long race distance like that.
  • Have a better plan for after a half marathon. Honestly, I never thought about what I was going to do running wise after completing my first half marathon. During training, I looked at my schedule and knew what I was running weeks ahead. I had a few training races to look forward to. Goals set. All of the sudden, I woke up on Monday morning and after months of scheduled running, I had nothing. I felt a bit lost. I knew I needed the rest, but kept thinking to myself, this is so weird. What’s next. It’s all over. I did it, now what. I kind of wish I had set a plan up, even for the following couple weeks or month after the race. Have something to look forward to and keep me honest with training. Thankfully, I started right where I left off with running, but I could see this being an issue if I let myself push off running, you know, for tomorrow.
  • For the first day or two after the half marathon, I was a little hard on myself when people would ask how it went. I’d tell them my time and people would give me a great response, but I found myself saying things like eh I should’ve done better. It took a fellow running friend to tell me to not be so hard on myself. It was one of those moments that hits you right in the face. I thought to myself, she is totally right. What you did isn’t easy. You put a lot of work into it and be proud, damn proud of what you accomplished. I know I can be hard on myself with goals. It’s just how I’ve always gone after success. I expect the best out of myself. The funny thing is, I am always the guy or teammate encouraging others with positive talks. I try to be motivating. I realized I need to do that to myself. No matter what, I want to make sure this stays fun. I’m still going to have goals, celebrate them when I beat them, but when I don’t be happy with what I’ve done and start working towards the next.
  • I probably should of had another beer or two to celebrate :o)

What do you do the week following a half marathon?
What races are you signed up for?

I hope you enjoyed reading this three part post. I’d love to hear your feedback. Please share it with me.

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What I Think I Learned From My First Half Marathon – Part 2 of 3

Here is the second part of what I think I learned from my first half marathon, The New Jersey Half Marathon in Long Branch. You can read Part 1 here, which focused on my training. Part 2 focuses on the race. I share what I think I did well and where I can improve upon.

I’m using this reflection to help myself improve for my next half marathon. Currently, I’m signed up to run the Halloween Half Marathon in Morristown on Saturday, October 21st. I’m 99% sure I’m going to sign up to run the Newport Liberty Half Marathon on Sunday, September 17th. Again, let me know if you are running either race.

Race Day – What I Did Well

  • Heading into the weekend, I felt great. I knew I trained hard and was both mentally and physically as ready as I could be at this point. I definitely felt confident heading down to Long Branch and prior to the start. I tapered correctly and stuck to my plan. I felt great all race week and felt my legs were ready to pound out 13.1 miles.
  • I really didn’t look at the weather report that much. I decided to go with the attitude of it will be what it will be and don’t stress out over. I knew I had to look at it though just so I packed correctly and wore the right gear. I was looking forward to nice weather, but figured if it rained, don’t let that bother you.
  • I woke up exactly when I set my alarm, 5:00 am. I didn’t turn over or lay there at all. I got up exactly when I planned to. I ate early and got ready without having to rush. I was out of the hotel exactly when I wanted to be and arrived at the starting area with plenty of time.
  • I was able to take my time prior to the start. I used The Travel Stick at my car to roll out my legs. Made the walk over to the starting area, walked around for a bit while hydrating. Got in line for the bathroom, knowing it could be awhile. Everything was going well pre-race.
  • I stretched plenty and was able to jog around for awhile to loosen up my legs without being in a rush. I made my way over to my corral and was able to find a good spot for the start before it got really crowded.
  • I was amped up but I don’t feel I shot out of the gate too fast. I worry about this during races but with the amount of runners all around the same pace, it helped keep me in check. I felt I was able to ease into it during the first mile.
  • I was able to really take in the sites and crowds while running with a smile on my face. I made sure to read as many of the signs as I could and thank as many volunteers as I saw. I kept my music lower than normal so I could hear what others were saying and chime in with other runners.
  • I felt like I ran a very good first half of the race. I felt great and my pace was in line with what I was training at. My legs were there, my mind was positive, and I was enjoying myself while pushing myself at the same time. Things were going great.
  • I made it a point to get water at most aid stations. I knew this had been an issue while training but I tried my best to hydrate during the race. My effort was there.
  • As with most races, negative thoughts would creep into my mind. I think I did a great job fending them off with positive ones. Even when it seemed my legs weren’t there and my stomach wasn’t right, I kept telling myself to keep going. Only x amount of miles to go. You’ve trained for this and got it. It definitely kept me going and is a huge reason I pushed through for a good finish.
  • The New Jersey Half Marathon is a flat course. There are a couple of inclines, especially over the bridges, and I made sure to hit those and keep my pace in place. I knew there weren’t many at all and they were short and quick so I knew it wouldn’t ware me out.
  • I pushed harder when I hit the boardwalk, knowing it was getting down to the end of the race. I kicked it up a notch, it just wasn’t the extra kick that I had during training. Again, I can’t be mad at myself when I’m putting in the effort but the body just isn’t having it that day. Some days you’re on and some days you’re off.
  • Normally when I finish a race I push as hard as I can until I pass the finish line and won’t make any gestures for the camera. Realizing this was my first half marathon, I decided pre-race, no matter how it goes, that I would cross the finish line with one finger raised. I figured this would probably be the one race I purchased photos from and I wanted to make sure I noted it was my first.

Race Day – Where I Can Improve

  • Hydration, hydration, hydration! Hydration is the biggest area I really need to improve on. I felt I hydrated properly prior to the race but I definitely suffered from dehydration when I hit about the final 1/3 of the race. It definitely had a big effect on me. I even noticed that I started to sweat a lot within the first half mile of the race. That seemed a bit odd at the time and I think I should’ve realized that I was going to have issues and I should’ve probably made sure I grabbed two cups at each aid station instead of one. I know I sweat a lot but normally it doesn’t come on so fast. It wasn’t a hot day either. I’m not sure if it was just nerves or being amped up that did it or what. I did try drinking as much as I could at the aid stations but it just wasn’t enough. I’ve decided that I think I’m going to run with a throw away bottle with Gatorade in it for my next half marathon. Currently, I’m using a Gatorade squirt bottle and drinking from it has gone well while running. With cups, I feel like I gulp too much air and end up coughing from it. Or I wear half of it was it’s bouncing around. I also recently purchased Bottle Bands and I have loved using them while on my long runs. They help so much with carrying a water bottle and they are extremely cheap. For races I know my wife and kids will be somewhere along the route, I think I’ll have them give me a second bottle to use for the remainder of the race. I really think this plan will work. We shall see but I’m going to do my best to not fall into this situation again.
  • This was the first race I traveled for and stayed over night at a hotel. Due to this, it was my first pre-race dinner that I didn’t cook at home. I think what I ate didn’t sit well with me at all. My stomach was off during the race. It was poor planning on my part. We didn’t decide where we were going to eat until about a half hour before dinner. We also tried picking a place that was good for the kids. I need to plan better. My next half marathons are local, so I won’t be traveling for them. We’ll see how much of a difference that will make.
  • I didn’t end up having my Gu during the race. I had it on me but due to my stomach being upset, I opted not to take it. I had used them on my long runs so I trained with them. I probably should have used it but didn’t.
  • I felt like I had too many negative thoughts running through my mind when my legs weren’t responding. I wasn’t thrilled about it. I kept adding in positive thoughts as you read above but I felt like I there were too many negative thoughts during this race.
  • I was definitely a little hard on myself when I crossed the finish line. I should’ve been happier. I finished in 1:58:00 and when  I first started training I would’ve been ecstatic with the result. However, while I was training I ended up getting it in my mind that I was going to run sub 1:55. As the days went by, I definitely was more and more proud of myself but my initial reaction wasn’t as good as it should’ve been. I realized running a sub 2 hour half is a great accomplishment and for me to do it in my first one, I should have been doing jumping jacks. It’s definitely helped me adjust my thoughts and made me realize I shouldn’t be so hard on myself. It’s a promise I’m making to myself for the next half.
  • I like to try and congratulate runners that I use to help me pace myself. Unfortunately, when I hit the finish line, I lost track of one runner that I was back and forth with throughout the race. I would’ve loved to have told her she ran an awesome race and thanks for helping me out.
  • I ran this race without driving the course. I almost always will drive a course so I can see what to expect. I didn’t have a chance with this one. I think it would’ve helped if I did, just having the peace-of-mind of knowing what was ahead or around each corner.
  • I know some runners hate other runners that run with music but I like to listen to music while I run. I’m always aware of my surroundings, so it in no way affects myself or other runners. I also don’t blast it where I can’t hear those around me. Apparently though, my playlist wasn’t long enough because I started it too early and the music stopped on the boardwalk. Instead of trying to get my iPod out of my FlipBelt, I just decided to run the rest without music. I feel like music pushes me and I need to make sure I add a few more songs to the mix.

Where do you think you can improve on in during races?
What are you most proud of that you do well during races?

Stop back for the last part of this post and let me know how your training is going.

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What I Think I Learned From My First Half Marathon – Part 1 of 3

I’ve had time to reflect on my first half marathon, The New Jersey Half Marathon in Long Branch, that I ran a little less than three weeks ago. I’ve been able to think about my training, week leading into the race, race day, and the days after the race. What I enjoyed, can improve upon, and what didn’t go right. I’m going to break this up into three separate blog posts. One for training, one for race day, and one for post race.

I’m hopeful that I will continue to improve and can take what I’ve learned and help me at my next half marathon. Currently, I’m signed up to run the Halloween Half Marathon in Morristown on Saturday, October 21st. I’m 99% sure I’m going to sign up to run the Newport Liberty Half Marathon on Sunday, September 17th. Let me know if you want to join me at either race.

Training – What I Did Well

  • I was proud of the long runs I accomplished throughout training. Going into this, I was used to running anywhere between 3-6 miles and would do it for 3-4 days a week.
  • I started my training at  the beginning of the new year, so I knew I had extra time to get more long runs in. I think this was a tremendous help.
  • Each week, I increased my long run by one mile. I started at 7, worked up to 8, 9, 10, 11, and 12. My longest run ended up being around 12 1/2 miles but that was just due to the course I ran. I thought I was only going for 12 and I ended up running down a road I didn’t map out originally. I was able to work through these long runs more than once and eventually had 7 – 8 mile runs in the middle of the week.
  • I upped the number of days I ran during my training as my body adjusted. I started with 4 days and worked up to 5 days with a cross training day and one rest day per week.
  • I was able to run a few races as part of my training. I ran a 4-miler, 5K, and 10 miler. I thought this was very important as it showed I had an extra gear and also reminded me of what it was like to race with others. All of my training runs are solely, so you sometimes forget what it is like to have other runners around you for pacing or motivation.
  • I learned the importance of running at different paces and that it’s a good thing. Prior to this, I just would run. I know the benefits of a recovery run, race pace run, etc.
  • I was very fortune that it was warm for most days this winter in NJ. We also only had a few snowstorms. This helped me get outside to run more than I’m sure I would’ve in past years. I think this was a huge benefit.
  • I learned the importance of having multiple pairs of running sneakers and to rotate what you wear. Sneakers need recovery time too.
  • Keep enjoying my training runs. For the most part, I really enjoyed training. I think changing up my routes and distances help keep training interesting. I was able to explore areas of my neighborhood I didn’t really ever go around. There are plenty of other parts of town I can run that I haven’t really been around.

Training – Where I Can Improve

  • As you’ll read in my next blog post, I need to work on hydrating while running. This caught up to me on race day. This is seriously probably my biggest improvement area. I’ve already started working on it and I think my best course of action is to run with a bottle and switch it out at some point during the race with a new one if my wife is at the race. I’ve also ordered two Bottle Bands and will see if they work.
  • I need to do speed work. I really did not do any of this. I don’t know if it’s because I dreaded reading about it or that I was more worried about just creating a base to finish 13.1 miles. At first, I wasn’t concerned about my time and it was all about finishing without walking. I think this lead to me to not do speed work. I know it’s important and I need to add it in to my training. I need to do more interval runs, Fartlek runs, etc.
  • Core. I barely worked on my core at all. The core is so important for running. I’m holding myself to working on my core at least 3 days a week. Good thing is, I’ve already started this.
  • Sleep. I need to get in a habit of going to bed earlier and waking up earlier to train. For this past half, I think I was going to bed too late and I was doing most of my training runs during my lunch hour or at the end of the work day. I need to train more earlier in the morning as most of these races are first thing in the morning. Also, I need to get more hours of sleep, especially the closer I get to race day.
  • Stretching. I didn’t stretch much when I first started training but I added it in and I need to continue it. I need to do more stretching post run too. I skip this way too much.
  • Weight Training. I wasn’t lifting at all in the begging but added it in to my routine about half way through. I need to continue with it. I don’t know if I need to do this or not, but I’m going to. I need to look at my watch less on some of my runs and just enjoy it.
  • Try out new running gear to see what is best for me.
  • Try out more fueling options.
  • Read more blogs to see what other runners like to do. Continue to learn and educate myself.

Where do you think you can improve on in training?
What part of your training routine do you do very well?

Stop back for the last two parts of this post and let me know how your training is going.

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