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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C-WC Run for Education 5K Recap

I ran my first race, the Caldwell-West Caldwell Run for Education 5K, since The New Jersey Half Marathon this past weekend. It was the perfect race  to help me rebound from the half marathon and get back into a few months of shorter races.

The Caldwell-West Caldwell Run for Education 5K starts at James Caldwell High School which is right up the road from my house. If you could ever have a “home” course for a race, this is it for me. I run parts or all of this route on most of my training runs. I feel like I know it inside and out and could do it with my eyes close. I think it is a good thing but a bad thing as well. With knowing where the tough areas are, I think it can mess with you mentally. However, knowing that exact thing can help you. I knew once I hit a certain point, it would be a fast course back to the finish.

I ran this race two years ago. This was the third year for it. Two years ago, it was and still is the fastest 5K I have run. I finished in 24:46 for a pace of 7:59. It’s the only race I’ve broken 8 minutes so far. Going into the race, I realized this would probably be the first repeat race I’ve run where I wouldn’t be beating all of the previous results. I was OK with it as long as I ran the best I could. When I ran that race in 2015, I was focusing on 5Ks. Having just come off of training for the half marathon, I was training more for that and not the speed for a 5K.

The last 5K I ran was in March and I ran it at an 8:20 pace. I thought I had an outside shot of a PR but I knew this race was a lot tougher due to it being half uphill.

I decided the night before I was just going to attack it as fast as I could out of the gate. If I ran out of gas, so be it. I figured it was time to test out a new strategy and I was just going to have fun no matter what. Knowing I was running in this race with other friends also made it more enjoyable and the perfect first race after the half marathon.

I attacked the first mile which was all uphill. I ended up running about a minute or so more than I normally run it while training. I was happy and knew it could be a good run but I still had to get through two hills on mile 2. Oddly, my mouth went dry within the first 1/4 mile. I had hydrated plenty, I don’t know if it was nerves or something, just odd. It ended up going away though.

I hit Grover Cleveland Park and caught my breath but kept my pace going. I identified a few runners ahead of me that were keeping a great pace and stayed with them. A couple of runners passed me in the park but I knew with the two hills coming up, it wasn’t a big deal I wasn’t running any slower.

I battled through the two hills and picked it up. I’ve noticed that I have been pretty strong on hills during races as that is where I pass runners. I don’t really pass many runners on flat areas, but hills I do.

Finally, I hit the return downhill. I knew this was the time to kick it in high gear and just go. Let the course help me. I was totally breathing heavy so I knew I was pushing it. My legs felt good and I was trying not to look at my watch too much as I just wanted to enjoy it.

Finally, the last quarter mile I looked for my family and didn’t see them. I hit the final turn for the last few hundred feet and there they were cheering on. My daughter was with a couple of her friends too. It was so cute and I pointed and smiled as I crossed the line. I saw the time on the clock and was really happy with my run.

Time – 25:15.3
Pace – 8:07
Overall Finish – 83 out of 456
AG Finish – 6

I knew I beat the 5K time in March. I couldn’t remember what I ran in 2015 but I knew it was 24 something, so I hadn’t hit that. I was happy though. I knew it was a good time and I have breaking 8 in my sight again.

When I got home, I figured out this was actually the second fastest 5K I’ve ever run. That really made me feel good. I was very proud of my run and the effort I gave.

Looking forward to running this race again next year. It benefits my kids school system, so it’s a great cause. Hopefully, more people will run it next year.

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New Jersey Half Marathon Recap

I did it! I completed my first half marathon on April 30, 2017. I finished The New Jersey Half Marathon in 1:58:00. I averaged a 9:00 mile pace and finished 1,039 out of 3,664 overall, 106 out of 246 in my division, and 641 out of 1,555 for males.

It has been quite an experience these past few months with training and preparing for this race. I feel I’ve come a long way since I first started training. Originally, my goal was to simply finish. Prior to this, the longest I ever ran was a 10K during a triathlon I completed back in 2005. In the past few years, the longest race I ran was the Ashenfelter 8K each Thanksgiving morning. Making the jump from 4.98 miles to 13.1 miles seemed so far out there to me.

As I trained, I started adjusting my goals. About half way through training, I told myself, you’re going to break 2 hours. Work for it, get your pace down, see yourself crossing that finished line with a 1 and not a 2 in the hour place holder.

Then, I ran the Garden State 10 Miler and I honestly thought I could run somewhere between 1:50 and 1:55. I felt like I hit on all cylinders that day. Training continued to go well. I kept with my schedule and felt great the week of the race.

I took Friday off as a rest day prior to the race. I ran 2 easy miles on Saturday morning. After my daughter’s soccer practice, we had lunch and then got in the car and headed down to the Expo.

The Expo was nice. It was at the Monmouth Park Race Track, where the starting line was, and it was pretty easy to get through everything. We picked up my bib, parking passes, swag, took a family photo, bought a couple of things, and then walked around the booths. We chatted with reps from the Chicago Half, Bermuda Half, and RWJ Barnabas Health. Eventually, I think I’d really like to run Chicago and Bermuda.

After the Expo, we checked in to our hotel, unpacked and then went to dinner. I had pasta with broccoli and chicken. I don’t think it agreed with me too much as my stomach was just off during the race. I realized this was the first time I wasn’t cooking my pre race dinner. Next year, I might end up going to the Expo on Friday, so I can eat dinner at home prior to driving down to a hotel.

I was in bed early, around 9:30 and then up at 5:00 am on Sunday. I had a bagel and drank water/Gatorade. I showered, glided up, and got dressed. I was out of the hotel by 5:55 am and drove the 1.7 miles over to race track.

Parking was easy, as volunteers literally just put one
car after another. I took my time in the car, used The Travel Stick to roll out my legs, and then headed over to the starting area and bag check. I checked my bag and then headed over to the porta potties to get in line. After that, I warmed up by jogging around 3/4 of mile and stretched. I got my FlipBelt squared away and headed over to the corrals.

I was in Corral 4. All I thought to myself was, don’t embarrass yourself by being in a corral that you end up not finishing in the selected timeframe. I don’t know, I’m still new to a lot of this and sometimes I look around and  feel like people are like what is this guy doing in here haha. I know I shouldn’t but I’m sure with more experience it will go away.

The Bugle player got us all ready for the start, which was really cool, and then they blasted Born to Run by Bruce. Considering The Boss got his start around this area, it was kind of cool to hear.

The race was off and it wasn’t nearly as congested in the beginning as I thought it would be. According to the race results, I ran the first 10K (6.2 miles) in 53:56 for an 8:41 pace. I felt good early on. My lungs/wind was not heavy and I was loose. The only thing that caught my attention was that I felt like I started to sweat heavily within the first half mile. I normally sweat a lot but it generally takes me a few miles to get like that. I should’ve thought ahead and prepped but I didn’t.

There weren’t too many spectators early on in the race, but I didn’t think it was a problem. At that point you had so many other runners around you, you felt like part of a group.

The course had plenty of signage along the course. Some homeowners have signs up, a few were blasting music, some had couches out. It was really cool. The funniest two signs I saw were a 2 or 3 year old holding a sign that simply said “Beer” with an arrow on it. The other was of an older woman that said something like “Wow you have great stamina, give me a call”. That one actually had me laugh out loud as I ran by. The people and volunteers along the course were great cheering everyone on. There were plenty of police, EMS, and firefighters too that you felt safe and in good hands if needed.

At the water stop around mile 6.2, one of the volunteers was a friend of mine from college. I went running by yelling her name out and got a huge shout and smile. It was awesome. Just before this point, I had another good laugh as one guy behind me goes to his buddy, hey just think, we only have 20 more miles to go and they laughed about it. You have to love the humor you hear while running a race. At that moment I was glad I was only doing the half.

Around 7 miles is the relay transition. This can play some mind tricks with you. You pass by these runners waiting to start. Well, you’re 7 miles in already and next thing you know, you have runners passing you and you’re thinking to yourself wtf is going on. Then you realize oh, these are relay runners just starting out with fresh legs.

I kept chugging along but when I completed mile 7, I noticed my pace had dropped a little. I thought, no big deal just pick it up. But around mile 8 was a little bit slower than mile 7 though. Going on mile 9 was where the wheels started to come off a little. I knew I wasn’t moving as fast. My lungs/wind felt OK still but my legs felt like they just weren’t working right.

As I continued and hit mile 10 I realized the issue was probably more due to dehydration. I was taking  water at almost all water stations but I definitely wore more than I drank. I continued to push through and it definitely helped that from about mile 10 until you hit the boardwalk there are a lot of people along the streets giving great encouragement.

I finally hit the boardwalk and told myself not much longer. I kept pushing it but the extra kick I had on all of my practice runs at the end just wasn’t there that day. I knew breaking 1:55 was out at this point but I knew I could still break 2 hours and that is what I was pushing for.

The boardwalk part of the run was not really windy at all, which was a relief. The view was spectacular. It did seem longer than I was expecting but I knew eventually I’d hear and see the finish line area.

As I got near the finish line, I decided to put up one finger to note this was my first half marathon ever. Not to say I was number one lol, but to note it in pictures.

As I was crossing the finish line, I saw my wife and kids. I got my medal, which is really cool, but felt wonderful to put on . My wife and kids were so excited and it made my day. I quickly got and chugged a container of water. Then met them at the fence. I was definitely tired but so happy to see them. I grabbed another water, Gatorade, banana, snack box, and cover and walked over to them. I felt like that walk was taking me forever. I stood and talked to them for a few minutes and then decided I just wanted to lay down for a few seconds in the grass lol.

I thought the race had plenty of water/Gatorade stations throughout and porta-potties along the course. I know I hydrated plenty leading into the race. I don’t know why I sweated more than normal, but even looking at my FitBit heart rate levels confirmed it for me as I was in Peak way longer than I should have been. I think this race taught me that my next long race, I have to alter what I’m doing for fluids, especially during the race.

It’s amazing how for months you’re training for something and then you wake up the day after you’ve achieved your goal and you kind of don’t know what to do. It was weird waking up on Monday morning. I used Monday and Tuesday as rest days to allow my body to recover. I did a little research on upcoming races but haven’t made a decision on what I’m going to do. My plan is to run a few shorter races, like 5 and 10Ks throughout the summer and then aim for another half marathon in September or October.

So I did it. I was probably hard on myself at points after the race as I didn’t run the perfect run, but I realize it was still a great race and I had fun. My family and friends were all great with their congratulations and that they were proud of me.

I liked this race enough that I’m planning on coming back next year. Oh, and my goal will be to beat that 1:58:00. :o)

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