United Airlines NYC Half Marathon ’17

Welcome to spring!

We hope everyone really enjoyed their weekend. This past weekend saw me travel to New York City for the United Airlines NYC Half Marathon while Jen stayed home with the kids.

After 10 straight days of work, I was ready to get on the road Thursday afternoon after working all night. The trip down took longer than it should have following Winter Storm Stella as many areas were still clearing roads properly. After arriving I went out for a late dinner with my friend and enjoyed some of the First Round of March Madness.

On Friday, we decided to take our time in the morning and ran a few errands before boarding the commuter train into the city. Once we arrived we headed straight to the NYRR Run Hub to pick up my race bib. Unlike the TCS NYC Marathon, this was quite a subdued affair with very little to do, see, or spend money on. There was a race gear section, a few photo opportunities along with guest speakers – that was it.

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Sporting my TCS Marathon shirt — classy!!

We spent the rest of St. Patrick’s Day doing our best to avoid the crowds of inebriated individuals with little success. We hunkered down and played some old school video games, like NBA Jam and Ninja Turtles while catching more March Madness along the way.

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Saturday was a relaxed day, with more arcade games at Dave and Buster’s and a nice home cooked meal. I was worried about the weather on Saturday as they were calling for 2-4 inches of snow in the afternoon through race morning. Luckily, that did not materialize although is did snow lightly.

The biggest difference between this event and the two NYC marathons I’ve run was transportation. Due to a lack of buses or trains and the early race start, my friend was forced to drive me into the city from New Jersey. Thankfully, traffic was minimal and hassle-free.

Once I arrived, I proceeded to get myself ready for the race, check my bag, use the restroom and proceed to my corral. Along the way, I picked up someone’s discarded heat sheet thinking I would be nice and place it in the trash or recycling. I quickly learned my good deed would help keep me warm in the cool weather and 18 mph winds.Their loss, my gain!

Although cold and windy, the morning view from Central Park was stunning. The heat sheet only protected me from the elements for so long and by the time the national anthem was over, I was shivering. When the gun sounded and I started running, it took three miles before I could feel my feet.

The first 10k of the race is almost entirely in Central Park, except a small section along the north end of the park, and is quite hilly. I knew this prior to the race but was somehow still surprised by these hills. As always, I ran to fast at the beginning. I really should learn from my mistakes once in a while! Truth be told I was hoping to just find a pace and maintain it, but that didn’t work. I was all over the p(l)ace!

The course through the park and on the streets of New York was beautiful. There are only two times the whole year the city shuts down Times Square – New Years Eve and this race – so it’s an awesome perspective to be in such a busy city and have the streets all to yourself (with 20,000 other runners of course). As the race unfolded, we moved west on 42nd Ave and then south on 11th Ave. As we approached the southern tip of Manhattan, I looked out over the river and could see the Statue of Liberty. With Lady Liberty standing tall in the harbor, we concluded the event by running through the Battery Park Tunnel and finishing at the intersection of Water and Wall streets in the Financial District.

Although the race didn’t go my way, New York Road Runners put on an excellent event. I hope to one day be able to have redemption at this event, but only time will tell if my lottery luck will continue!

I hope you enjoyed and we both are looking forward to the Syracuse Half Marathon this weekend. Stay tuned here for all the happenings.

2016 TCS NYC Marathon Recap

So, yeah…it’s been three weeks and I haven’t posted my race recap. Most might not be interested anymore, but I’ll write it anyway. 

The New York City Marathon is quite literally unlike any other marathon in the world. The size of the field, the number of volunteers and the logistics involved make this race absolutely unforgettable. I was lucky enough to receive my entry through the lottery on my first try (sorry to those who’ve been trying for years) and this was my second year in a row after running for Team Up with Autism Speaks in 2015.

It was great to know what to expect this year which left me able to enjoy the day more without worrying about the fine details of when, where, or how. One of the best experiences of the race is the start village. This year I was assigned the orange corral and when I arrived I was greeted with an amazing sunrise.

The weather was about as perfect as possible for early November and the few hour wait in the start village wasn’t bad. I met up with Chris before the race and we wished each other good luck before I headed to the start corrals for my wave 1 start.

What I think New York does better than anyone else is the start. The introductions of the elite runners, the singing of the National Anthem, the boom of the cannon signaling the start and then the playing of “New York, New York” as you begin your journey of the five burroughs is truly a sight to behold. If this race is not on your bucket list, add it!

Now, on to the race. It didn’t go well. I wasn’t expecting to run a PR after a good run in Chicago weeks earlier, but I was hoping for better. Unfortunately, the week leading up to the race I injured my groin at work and wasn’t 100% healthy when I lined up on the start line. I tried to run a fast race but by mile 11 I knew it wasn’t possible as the pain began to get worse. 

I understood there was more to the day than the time at the finish so I continued on. I first saw my wife right at Mile 17 on First Avenue in Manhattan. It was exciting to see her since she wasn’t able to come along last year, to have her there to share the day with, and because she had pain killers! After stopping for medicine I was back on my way, albeit way off target pace. 

Although I was in a decent amount of discomfort, I took in the sights and sounds of the final miles more than I remember doing last year and I took my disappointment and tried to encourage others as they passed me. Jen was waiting for me just before Columbus Circle with about a 1/2 mile to go. I ran over and gave her a sweaty hug and big kiss – thanking her for supporting me this year as I began to get emotional about the day, the disappointment of the race and everything I did this year.

For the first time ever in a race, I took my phone out near the finish line and recorded a short (and very shaky) video. I crossed the finish line in 3:31:23. Although I know this is a respectable time, it was disappointing to finish over 16 minutes slower than Chicago. Despite the time, I received my medal with the biggest smile on my face. 

I know I’ve written a lot about how running has changed me. The reason for frequenting this topic is because running does change you. The changes aren’t just physical, but mentally and emotionally as well. Every time I train for and run a marathon, I learn. I learn to ignore the naysayers and the self doubt that all to often creeps up. I learn about discipline, dedication to something, and most importantly, I learn that hard work has more benefits than a time on a clock. 

I watched as my family supported me, as my children wished me good luck every time I went for a run, and as I ruined shoes and some clothes along the journey to the Finish Line in Central Park after running over 1,900 miles this year. Now, I’m watching as the calendar creeps toward 2017 and as my body continues to recover from injury preventing me from running. I look forward to the next chapter and where it takes me and wonder what I’ll learn along the way.

2016 Chicago Marathon Recap

It’s been a week since the Chicago Marathon and life is returning to normal. We returned home on Monday and this week went by very fast with fall house work, car repairs, hunting and of course a return to training for next month’s New York City Marathon.

This year’s Chicago Marathon was another great experience filled with many emotions, as always. I was heartbroken that Jen didn’t get to experience it for herself. She was a great spectator and my biggest fan again this year, but it would have been nice to have her running. Next year!

I trained for Chicago to be my goal race this season, looking to improve on my best marathon time from last year. I had three goals in mind – my “A” goal was a sub 3:10:00; “B” was a sub 3:15:00; and “C” was a new PR regardless. I had run more miles than ever in my life and felt good when I arrived in the starting corral.


I joined the 3:10 pace group in the corral and enjoyed the sunrise lighting up the Chicago skyline. Before I knew it, the National Anthem had been sung and the race was officially underway at 7:30 a.m. I crossed the start line at 7:32 on my journey through the 29 neighborhoods that comprise the course.

The race started smoothly despite the congestion. I wasn’t right in the pacing pack, as I had a hard time jostling for position so I just kept them in sight and waited it out. Slowly, I was able to catch the group through maneuvers and with the aid of water stations. Last year I only stated with them for 11 miles because I felt I wanted to run faster. This year I stayed with them until I couldn’t run any faster.

Around mile 19, I just couldn’t keep pace any longer and slowly began to drift back. I felt my muscles starting to twitch and tighten and knew from my previous races what was coming – painful cramps. What impressed me the most this race was my ability to fight off the cramps and continue on, albeit at a slower pace. The last 10K was a fight more mentally than physically. I was fighting back cramps, but more importantly, I was fighting my own thoughts of self-doubt.

My “A” goal was long gone but I knew looking at my overall time and current splits I could still break 3:15:00. I continued on, sometimes at what felt like a walk (although in reality my splits were very respectable, slowing to a worst of 8:03/mile) until I saw the sign – 1 mile to go.

I gave the last mile everything I had left. I  could feel my legs tightening quickly and my stride becoming unnatural, almost painful. As I approached the finish, climbed the last hill and rounded the final corner I could see the finish line. I had 200 meters to go, less than a quarter mile, half a lap around a track. I passed the 200 meter sign when suddenly I hit the concrete as both legs seized up with cramps. “Well shit!”, I thought.

I made my way to my feet, and hobbled the final distance. As I crossed the finish line I raised my hands into the air celebrating all I had endured this year – the ups and downs, time away from family, the lonely miles, the horrible runs with negative thoughts, self-doubt, my fundraising for Team Up!, my family and friends who supported and encouraged me. I had a lot to celebrate!

I looked up at the clock, then down at my Garmin. 3:15:12. “Well Shit!” I missed out automatically qualifying for next year’s race by 12 seconds. Those same 12 seconds I spent on the concrete 200 meters away. Initially, nothing but disappointment crept into my mind. I thought I had failed.

But then I remembered something important. A marathon is in fact a race, someone wins, always. But it is more a test of heart and soul, determination, and sheer will power than skill. I didn’t fail.

I learned I could push myself to be better, faster and more determined through months of hard work. I learned more about overcoming adversity training for and running a marathon than I ever thought I could. I learned how important having goals are and sharing those goals with the ones you love.

Last weekend, I met amazing people through Team Up! and got to share my personal story of Autism with them and together we shared the 2016 Chicago Marathon.

2,323 people crossed the finish line before me, but I finished. In the process I took 2:22 (min/sec.) off my best time. I left the post race party doing a little dance (literally), enjoying the music with my hands in the air. It may not have been the outcome I wanted, but in the end, I had a lot to celebrate!

Lake Placid Classic Recap

Last weekend I ran my only tune-up race before the 2016 Chicago Marathon in gorgeous Lake Placid, New York. The Classic, in its 46th year, is known as “The Original Lake Placid Half Marathon.”

The race is known for its gorgeous views and challenging course profile. This was my second time participating in this race, as I ran back in 2014 when I finished 18th in a time of 1:37:50.

We left early the morning of the race and traveled the approximately hour and half to Lake Placid. We arrived in plenty of time and picked up my bib, race shirt and commemorative pint glass. The family hung out on the Olympic Oval that hosted the 1980 Winter Games where Eric Heiden won 5 gold medals and set four Olympic Records and one World Record in the process. Jen and I have had the opportunity to skate on history — many years ago pre-children. Parker and I completed some warm-up laps, took some pictures and prepared for the race.

The course begins right out in front of the Olympic Oval and makes it way through town, around Mirror Lake and out of town past the Ski Jumping Complex before making it’s way out to River Road and gorgeous scenery.

The race went about as well as I could have hoped and I was running on pace through the first 10 miles. However, the last 3 miles I just didn’t have the legs to power through the hills and fell behind my pace. I crossed the finish line in 1:29:40, beat my personal course best by 8:10 and finished 1:02 short of my personal best. I love races where my son, the avid runner, can cross the finish line with me; it’s a special moment for both him and I and I love seeing the smile on his face.

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I finished in 4th place overall, 3rd male and first in my 30-39 age group. For my efforts I received a nice rustic plaque (although a new one is being sent because the manufacturer made an error and printed 5K on them rather than 13.1), a $50 gift certificate to a local running store, wonderful medal and the confidence heading into Chicago that my next goal is within reach.

 

Buffalo Marathon Weekend: Marathon & Half

In the week and a half leading up to Buffalo we started watching the weather. Every day it was changing- thunderstorms, rain, perfect temps…you name it. Going into this event we should have known that we wouldn’t get perfect running weather after what we experienced in Syracuse earlier this year and sure enough, it was hot – very hot. It was so hot that the apparel company for this event – DG Apparel and Gifts – decided to create a custom weather related commemorative t-shirt “Heatwave”. So far this year — two races, two weather related commemorative shirts. What happened to 50 and cloudy? It apparently doesn’t exist in Upstate NY.

The morning was still beautiful despite the temperature and the sun was up around 4:30 a.m. Parking is so convenient here and we were less than a block away from the convention center. We took our time when we arrived as Jen had to exchange her event shirt and we needed to do our bag drop. After completing all our tasks, a quick bathroom and water stop we were on our way to the start line. We said our goodbyes and good lucks when we arrived, each going to our respective posted pace areas. New this year were wonderful fireworks that were launched during the national anthem and continued for a few minutes until just before the start. Before we knew it the race was underway.

So to begin our recaps, ladies first:

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Jen: I honestly don’t have a ton to say about Buffalo, but I’ll do my best. I went into this race still chasing big time goals, knowing that my training had gone well enough to produce said times. I have to stop and say thanks to Denny for pushing me outside of my comfort zone during training and helping to make me a better runner! Taking the heat into consideration, I decided that I was still going to go for it and just do what I could.

On race morning I made an on the fly decision to try out running with a pacer. I started out with the 2:25 group, knowing that if I needed to drop back at any point that the 2:30 group was still available a few steps behind. I really enjoyed talking with the lady that was doing the pacing. She was from NYC and had a lot of good advice. Shortly before the race began she went over her pacing strategy with the group so everyone knew what to expect from her and then we were off.

Things were uneventful for the first few miles. I somehow lost the pacer after the water stop at mile 3. I didn’t see her waiting off to the side for the group and just kept pushing forward. This is where the struggle started for me. I can usually deal with being hot relatively well, but for whatever reason, today I was really over heating. I had started the day with a hat and decided to ditch it somewhere around mile 4 thinking that it might help cool me down a bit by taking it off. Nope. I just couldn’t cool my body down. Thankfully, Buffalo had asked residents to turn on their sprinklers for runners and many had done just that. I was running through every sprinkler I could find and it was helping a lot. I was also dumping cups of water down my back as well. At this point it already looked like I had been swimming rather than running.

I felt alright through mile 7 but heading towards the water there was no coverage from the sun and I was starting to feel extremely dehydrated. Somewhere around mile 8 I finally found a table that had iced towels and cups of ice and took advantage of those. I knew my goal time wasn’t happening so I shifted my focus and my new goal was making it to the finish as quickly as possible. I managed to pick up a 3 minute PR and ran 10 minutes faster than Syracuse, so I can be happy with that.

After the race I was glad to see that they had free massage tables set up and happily took advantage while I waited for Travis.

I don’t have any other half marathons on my schedule for this year, so now I’m shifting gears and getting ready for the 18.12 Challenge, Ragnar Adirondacks and Chicago in the fall.

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Travis: Originally going into this event, I was pushing for a PR. Now everyone may say that before a race, but I trained for a PR for 5 months. The course for Buffalo is perfect to accomplish lofty goals. I rested up the night before the race and got good sleep. On race morning my legs felt great despite having run the 5k the day before and I felt like I hydrated adequately the week and night before.  I lined up for the start feeling good. I will break my race down by halfs.

Front Half:

In summary, the front half went right as planned. I was aiming for a 1:35:00 first half and clocked in at 1:34:17. When I compare this race to my other top-3 marathons this was my second fastest front half. I ran the following splits: 7:14, 7:08, 7:14, 7:20, 7:20, 7:10, 7:08, 7:10, 7:12, 7:17, 7:12, 7:20, 7:17, & 7:25. Because of the warm temperatures, I was taking fluids every chance I could get including ice chips, iced down rags, and cooling down by dumping cups of water over me.  I still felt good when I hit the halfway point and continued onto the back half. It is however slightly defeating to watch the Half-Marathon runners finish at the same spot you turn to keep going. I definitely like a full 26.2 mile course, like Chicago or NYC better.

Back Half:

The first four miles of the back half saw me still on pace, although my times began to fluctuate more. I began to slip at mile 18 and by mile 19 I was off pace and it would only get worse. I needed to walk for the first time during mile 19 and that trend would continue for every last mile. The heat was catching up to me and by that point, all the fluids in Buffalo couldn’t stop my downward spiral. Fortunately, I made it to mile 24 before cramping, but when I did finally cramp, I couldn’t move. In previous races, I would at least be able to do a slow walk with cramps but not for this race. I was frozen while my hamstrings cramped violently. After what seemed like forever, I was finally able to walk, then jog for the remaining few miles. I finished the back half with the following splits: 7:28, 7:13, 7:16, 7:26, 7:48, 8:05, 9:27, 9:47, 9:47, 9:37, 12:47, 9:32, 10:17. I finished the back half with my second slowest time compared to my other top-3 races.

So as you can tell it was a race with two different story lines. I finished in 3:33:38, 165th overall averaging an 8:10 pace. I was defeated by the heat, my body and also my mind. It took longer for me to recover from this race than other marathons previously and the next day I could not walk. I was so dehydrated that for two days after I was still cramping in my legs sporadically throughout the day. I then proceeded to get sick on Wednesday which made the hydration situation even worse. I’m starting to feel better now but I haven’t even thought about running since the race which is good because, mentally, I was defeated after that grueling run. With Chicago Marathon training officially underway for most, I need a break for both my body and mind. I will begin training for Chicago on Sunday, June 12th and will work my tail off trying to accomplish a new PR in Chicago this fall.

The Buffalo Marathon did an amazing job at taking extra measures to deal with the heat. Water stations were increased and they brought in trucks full of ice along with frozen towels, had hydrants opened and cooling stations were placed along the course. We were really impressed with how smoothly everything ran right from packet pick up. The only complaint that I can think of is the sizing of the women’s shirts, but the exchange was painless so it wasn’t a big deal.

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Buffalo Marathon Weekend: 5K, Kids Races and Expo

As we mentioned previously, we spent the majority of Friday car shopping so we were ready for race weekend to begin!

Saturday was a busy day starting with the 5K. Last year we both ran the 5K as a shakeout for the Half Marathon, but because of logistics this year only Travis ran.

Packet pickup was only available in the morning before the race began. It was quick and easy – packets at one table and shirts at another.

Once Travis was all set with his packet we decided to hang out outside near the finish line until it was time for Travis to head to the start, which was around the corner.


I knew it wouldn’t take long for Travis to finish the 5K so the kids and I hung on to our spot so that we could watch the finish.


I (Travis) had decided the night before that I would race the 5k in hopes of a top-10 finish and a new PR. It retrospect, it probably wasn’t the brightest decision given the conditions for the marathon the following day. However, I have been trying to break my PR from last season and break into the 18 minute range while doing so, and thought Buffalo gave me the perfect chance given the favorable course profile.

I lined up close to the front and ran the first mile in a large pack of runners. After the first mile, things began to thin out and my mission was to methodically pass one person at a time to move up. This backfired when 2.9 miles in, I was passed. I didn’t like being passed and stayed close, able to sprint to the finish passing the same person only steps before the line.

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Although I came up short on a new PR, I managed to finish 10th overall and second in my age group with a 19:22.6 – good for a 6:15 pace with the following splits:

Mile 1. 6:12.94
Mile 2. 6:16.77
Mile 3. 6:19.27

I was successful in one of two goals and received an engraved medal for my efforts.

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After the 5K we headed back into the convention center so Travis could grab some food and to wait for the awards ceremony. While we were waiting, I ran downstairs and picked up Parker’s bib for the kids race. This is one of our favorite parts of the weekend. The kids races are free and Parker loves races that he can participate in as well!

Because Parker moved up an age division this year, he would have to run his race alone, so Travis just went with to run along the outside of the course just to make sure nothing happened. Good thing because Parker was leading the way and went down the wrong finishing chute. As a result, he finished last but loved every minute of the attention and it provided us with a great chance to snap a picture.

 

Following the Kids Races we finally had a chance to visit the Expo. Unfortunately, due to the timing of the events this year, we missed the chance to listen to Bart Yasso speak but we were able to speak with him for a few minutes afterwards and he truly is such a pleasant and polite person. We very briefly shared our story about Parker and he listened and encouraged us to keep getting him involved in running. Later that night, Bart broke our phones when he tweeted this image:

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If you never had a chance to meet Bart Yasso, we would highly recommend it. The rest of the morning was spent wandering the expo and making a few small purchases. The expo for Buffalo isn’t huge and is made up of booths for other local races with some businesses as well. I stopped at the Ragnar booth for a little bit and was able to check out the course profiles for the legs that I will be running in September. Come to find out that what I thought was a relatively “easy” leg involves a 6 mile portion that runs straight up a mountain for 3 miles and comes with its own medal. Fun!

We concluded our day by picking up family at the airport across the street from our hotel and enjoying a nice dinner out in Buffalo. Next up Race Day!

 

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