Weekend in the City

In the blink of an eye, the TCS NYC Marathon weekend is over and with it, our entire 2016 season. It was a fun filled weekend so let’s begin our recap. 

We left home Thursday night after dinner to begin our drive down to New Jersey. All was going well until a bad accident in the mountains caused us to get rerouted a hour out of the way, creating a long night. 

On Friday we woke up and hopped the train into the city. We started by seeing the finish line in Central Park and checking out the marathon pavilion. After some photo opportunities and exploring the pavilion for a while, we decided to start making our way across town to the marathon expo.

 As we were leaving Central Park, Jen became excited and starting tugging on my shirt saying, “Travis, look!” To our surprise, there was Meb Keflezighi standing on the sidewalk. We approached, giddy, and asked for a photo.

While we only took two or three minutes of his time, Meb seemed genuinely nice and gracious. He didn’t have to grant the photo opportunity, but we were sure glad he did because it made our weekend, and possibly our year. Watching him win the 2014 Boston Marathon the year following the horrific bombings inspired both of us to begin running. Many people may not know who he is, but in our house, he has motivated us. We have enjoyed watching him race the last few years and are excited for him to retire on his terms where it all began for him, in New York City in 2017.

When we arrived at the marathon expo, we both needed to collect our bibs – Jens for the Dash to the Finish Line 5k and mine for the marathon. Then it was time to enjoy the expo. With hundreds of businesses, merchants and races represented there was plenty to see and buy. A highlight for Jen was getting the opportunity to meet and talk to Kara Goucher at the Sketchers booth. 


We also had the opportunity to meet up with someone special we met last year in Chicago, Chis Beck. Chris (@irunforowen), an Abbott Six Star finisher, ran as part of Team Up with Autism Speaks for all six races last year and ran again this year with them for the NYC Marathon. We joined up for the afternoon finishing up the expo and had an excellent dinner together along with our close friend Brandon (@BLTCUBS).

The next morning came early as we had to travel back into the city for the  Abbott Dash to the Finish Line 5k. After a one hour bus ride, twenty minutes on the subway, and a short walk we arrived at the start for Jen. I quickly gathered her belongings and made my way to 42nd street near Grand Central to watch the race. Chis joined me again as the race began and shortly thereafter Jen was running by.

Chris and I then took a subway to Columbus Circle and walked a short distance to the finish line area. We were able to catch Jen as she passed by shouting about a new PR. She finished her race pain free and with a new PR, so she was very excited.

Following the race, we found a spot on the upper west side to have breakfast and then walked around Times Square till around one. We decided it would be best to get back early to relax and we left the city for our train ride back to New Jersey. I won’t get into the logistical nightmare of he NJ Transit Authority doing track maintenance during marathon weekend, but suffice it to say we ended up on a city bus to get home.

It was a good two days and all that was left was the running of the five burroughs. Stay tuned to see how it went!

Chicago Marathon Weekend — Before the Race

Preparations for our Chicago trip were in full swing for most of last week. One of the most important things that had to be done before we left was a haircut. During the course of fundraising for Team Up! a friend had told me he was willing to make a sizeable donation this year, but I was going to have to earn it. An idea was thrown out and when another friend caught wind of it he agreed to match the donation. For a $400 donation, I had agreed to shave something into the back of my hair and it had to remain for the entirety of our trip.  This is the result:

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It’s a 13 hour drive from Upstate New York to Chicago, so to make it easier on the kids we left at bedtime on Thursday night. Within the span of a few minutes both kids were snoring in the back seat leaving us able to drive a solid chunk of the trip without having to stop. Traveling this way has it’s pros and cons – the kids sleep but that leaves us staying up the entire night driving – it’s exhausting!

Our first stop was at O’Hare International Airport to pick up our back up for the weekend – Grandma! She flew in from Michigan for the weekend to help us out with the kids while we attended the various activities that we had planned. Poor timing on our part left us stuck in early morning Chicago traffic. Once we left the airport it took us nearly an hour to get over to the expo.

Once we arrived at McCormick Place and walked what seemed like a mile to get to the actual expo it was time to pick up bibs! The kids were a little overwhelmed with the amount of people so they hung out with Grandma outside while we visited some of the vendors and did a little shopping. We also stopped at the Nike pace booth to sign up for a pace group for Sunday.

After the expo we were all pretty hungry so we checked into our hotel and set out for food. After dinner we were all pretty exhausted from traveling all night so it was an early bedtime.

On Saturday morning we were up bright and early as I had registered to run the Chicago International 5K.

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 The first International Chicago 5k began at Daley Plaza, where the Chicago Marathon starting line was many years ago. It was a great event and great start to the weekend. The course ran along Lake Michigan and finished a short distance from the marathon finish line. It was a timed event but I was using it as a shakeout run, so I just enjoyed the views and went for a three mile jog. 

We had plans to take the kids to the Shedd Aquarium so once the 5K was complete we picked up the kids and Grandma and made our way back across town.  We also had something extra special planned for the Aquarium. Parker was going to get a chance to meet his IRun4 buddy who flew in from New Orleans to run the marathon with Team Up! We were all very excited to get the chance to meet Rachel and her boyfriend. They spent the morning with us while we checked out all of the exhibits. Both kids had a blast – they especially loved the penguins!

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After several hours at Shedd it was time to head back to the hotel to get ready for the Team Up! Chicago team dinner. Just like last year it was held at Maggiano’s Little Italy. We got a chance to meet some other team members who would be running the next day. I also had the opportunity to speak and share a little bit about our family and our reasons for choosing to run with Team Up!

 

After spending a couple of hours at the dinner it was time to head back to the hotel to get ready to tackle 26.2 the next morning!

 

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.

 

On your mark…

It’s that time of year everybody – race season! Tomorrow begins a stretch of 3 races over the next two months. I begin with the Lake Placid Classic (a half marathon tune-up), followed by the Chicago Marathon on October 9th and close out the year with the New York City Marathon on November 6th.

Lake Placid Classic:

I last ran this event in 2014 and finished  a respectable 18th overall in 1:37:50, my best time at this point in history.

I hadn’t trained then nearly as hard as I have the last two years and since this race in 2014 I have lowered my half marathon time to 1:28:50. I have ambitions to best this time tomorrow, giving me a large boost of confidence as I begin my taper for Chicago. I’m realistic that this may not happen and I’m just hoping to enjoy the event and finish healthy.

2016 Chicago Marathon:

IMG_1624My “Main Event” this fall, this will be my second Chicago Marathon in a row. This is a special event for the fact that I am a member of Team Up! with Autism Speaks and running on behalf of my son. I’m saddened to know that Jen is not able to run this race with me this year after all her hard work training and fundraising due to her injury, but she’ll still be going and participating in most of festivities.

I’d be lying if I said I wasn’t aiming for a PR. I have worked hard all summer in pursuit of this goal. 30 more days before I see if it was enough.

 

 

New York City Marathon:

0038tMy final event for 2016 is the biggest of all marathons. Last year I ran this event on short notice as a last-minute charity runner. I finished under 3:30 and was impressed that I even ran that fast coming back from a great run in Chicago only weeks earlier. I definitely have a lot more understanding and respect for this race course now and although I don’t anticipate aiming for a PR, I would like to improve on my time from last year.

 

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PR Hydration Belt Review

Happy Friday and welcome back to the Tale of 2 Halfs. Jen is out of town this weekend enjoying some time with one of her sisters in Nashville and I am here in New York with the kids holding down the fort. Since I had the day off, I finally had the time to do my review of the PR Hydration Belt — a 3-bottle belt by sold by SLS3.

As I have made very aware in the past, I am affiliated with SLS3 as a member of their 2016 Racing Team. As a byproduct of that partnership, I have lots of SLS3 gear in my closet and receive new gear occasionally throughout the year. I received this belt last month and have been using it since. Now, onto the legal stuff:

This post is sponsored by SLS3. We were provided the PR Hydration Belt to try for review purposes and no other compensation was received. As usual, all thoughts and opinions are our own!

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The PR Hydration belt features:

  • ✅ ZIPPERED POUCH (4″x 2.5″): removable – holds keys, money, energy gels and other essentials.
  • ✅ SIZE: Fully adjustable elastic stretch waistband and Velcro closure for a customized, comfortable no-bounce fit – waist size 32-40 inches. Not recommended for smaller athletes.
  • ✅ BOTTLE HOLDERS: New holster design provides easy, one-handed, on-the-fly access to hydration and nutrition
  • ✅ BOTTLES: Three ergonomic, leak proof, dishwasher safe and BPA-free 7 oz (200 ml) bottles included.
  • ✅ MATERIAL: Breathable backing wicks moisture away and keeps you cool.

Now on to my thoughts about the belt. I would first like to highlight one of the points above –  Not recommended for smaller athletes. The belt is designed for 32 – 40 inch waists and those right at 32″ should be aware that it could be a little loose fitting.  I have a 31 – 32 inch waist and I needed to secure the Velcro almost at the end to get a good and comfortable fit. In SLS3’s defense, they do warn buyers twice in the description as to this limitation.

The second thought I have about the belt is in regards to the size of the bottles. 7 ounces is a little smaller than some bottles currently available. I have a two bottle belt that totals 20 ounces compared to this three bottle system at 21 ounces. This is unfortunately not enough fluids for me to get through my longer runs of 16, 18 and 20 miles plus, forcing me to also bring along a hand held water bottle.

The PR Hydration belt is comfortable to wear. The quality of the materials and assembly seem very good and I think the belt will last for a long time. I would like to see SLS3 alter the size of the water bottles and the fastener in a future update to this belt. I would recommend minimum 9 ounce bottles and a plastic buckle fastener. Velcro has too much a tendency to wear out over time and when you need to know something is secure, this could become a problem.

Overall, despite my few objections, I do think this is a very good product and frankly, you can’t go wrong when right now you can purchase a PR Hydration Running Belt from Amazon for only $24.90 (reg. $44.90). I purposely kept this review short because I have done a ten minute video review linked below. Please check out the video and feel free to leave a comment or question. Thanks for stopping by and enjoy your weekend.

Friday Five 6/10: Food/Drinks Every Race Should Have

Good morning and welcome back to the Tale of 2 Halfs! If you’re paying attention, you’ll notice that this is a special “Daily Double” post. You can read our first post of the day recapping our Piece by Piece 5k benefiting Autism Speaks by following the link.

Since we just completed our second event as race directors, are minds are still in planning mode and that got us thinking about the best food and drinks that every event should have post race. We’re linking up with Cynthia, Courtney and Mar for today’s Friday Five!

1. Chocolate Milk: The taste of an ice cold chocolate milk after a grueling 13.1 or 26.2 miles sure is satisfying and also is a great way to start muscle recovery immediately.

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2. Watermelon: Okay, so this isn’t only limited to the post race party but should be included out on the course as well. I had two large slices of watermelon about 18 miles into the Buffalo Marathon and it was perfect. It was cold, sweet, juicy and refreshing and although I crashed due to the heat, was the perfect light food to consume for extra energy.

3. Beer: I know, not healthy generally but studies have shown that a refreshing cold one after an endurance event can have some health benefits, such as, ” [Beer] can even serve as a decent rehydrator since most American beers are approximately 90 percent water with an ABV (alcohol by volume) of ~4.6, a small amount of protein, and approximately a third of the calories coming from carbohydrate. (Runner’s World, June 24, 2014)” Just have one though because alcohol can dehydrate you further if your not careful

4. Yogurt: On this list for multiple reasons – yogurt, especially greek yogurt, is an excellent source of protein providing your muscles what they need for recovery and repair. Additionally, the healthy bacteria in yogurt can aid in getting your digestive track  going after it shut down during your endurance activity. If you top your yogurt with granola, you’ll get the added benefit of carbohydrates.

5. Gatorade / Powerade / Nuun or Fresh Fruits: We weren’t being indecisive with our fifth pick, the point of is simply electrolytes. While sports drinks pack the electrolytes in and are refreshing, they often offer very little other nutritional value. Instead, you could try replenishing lost electrolytes with fresh fruit or fruit juice, which will also provide some carbohydrates.

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For those that stopped by for our busy week on the site, thank you!

What are some of the best post-race food/drinks you’ve enjoyed?

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