Monday, September 17, 2012

September is the best month! Nittany Cross & Rock N Roll Philly RR's

September seems to be the culmination of so many things jammed into 30 days!  Cooler nights, beautiful days, changing leaves, etc.  The kids are back in school, soccer practices & games jam the schedule, finishing off all of those projects you had planned for the summer, birthdays and oh yeah, some great racing weather!

This past weekend was one of those jam packed, beautiful weather weekends.  Friday evening I mowed the lawn, prepped the driveway and made a Lowe's run for some driveway sealer.  Saturday was the cyclocross opener at Nittany and Sunday was the Rock n Roll Philly half marathon and soccer games for the kids.  I hate to go and "have fun" while I've got a project like sealing the driveway waiting for me, but at the last minute I decided to do the Nittany Cross.  It was close to home and a beautiful day.  I hadn't prepped at all, hadn't ridden my cross bike since last year and hadn't trained one bit, but I went over anyway and met up with Johan and Joe.  The course was dry and fast, lots of power which is my kryptonite.  I had snuck out for a 5 mile run before the race, but I don't think that was to blame for dead legs.  We headed out to preride the course, I felt good in the turns, that was about it, but I was still smiling.

It was good to see the cross crew again and to engage in small talk with J-Pow! We lined up and I somehow managed to get in on the 2nd row right in the center next to Johan.  Normally this is a good place to be, I knew it was bad for me on this day because it would get my HR up pretty quickly and I didn't want to burn myself out too bad so I still had something left for the 1/3 marathon the next day.  Light turned green and I got snapped in right away and a great start, right around 10th or so.  I hung around up there for the first two laps but I knew I was pushing too hard to be saving anything for the next day.  I pulled up and rode two more laps just spinning the legs and watching the field come though.  I pulled out near the pit with 1 1/2 to go and headed back to the car.
 I had a good time, was glad I went, but it confirmed to me that cross just isn't doing it for me right now.  I was more worried about getting my chores done and having a good run the next day.  Sometimes the hardest thing to do is take that step back and evaluate where you're being led and to give in when where you're being led isn't where you are at that point in time.  To "give in" when that square peg isn't fitting in the round hole.  It was my time to recognize that cross was just too much at this point in my life, too much time away from the kids, Lauren, chores, running, etc.  Cross will always be there and I'm sure I'll be back, but not right now.  I still have obligations to direct our 3rd annual cross race in a few short weeks, but my heart isn't there, where it has been and I'm glad I was able to recognize and accept that.

So, I rushed home and my neighbor was awesome enough to help me get the driveway all done in a few hours, good for another 5 years or so!  Then it was time to pack up and head to my mom's.  She was gracious enough to let us sleep over and watch the kids while we raced Rock n Roll Philly.  I was excited to be going together with Lauren, like old times, headed to the races together.  It was a gorgeous AM, temps in the mid 50's, as we headed down to meet my brother in Philly.  We were all at different spots with our "goals".  My brother was hoping to PR, Lauren hoping to establish a baseline and I had no idea where I was!  After a pretty bad 1:25 half a few weeks back, I would be happy to break 1:20.  This is my FAVORITE race, a great course with GREAT competition which always draws the best out of me.  We all warmed up together and headed to our corrals up front.

It's fun to be up front in a big race like this, see all the opening ceremonies, watch the elites warm up, etc.  Before we knew it the gun was off.  I wanted to run right around 6 min miles and hit the first few at 5:52 or so.  It was a little warm, bright sun and low 60's, but not too bad.  We hit mile 4 and I was in a bad patch already?  "Alright, get out of the city and regroup" I thought.  And it worked.  We clicked past mile 6 and I started clicking off high 5:40's and slowly passing the zealous runners who had passed me earlier.
Big crowd behind me at 5 miles or so.
 We hit mile 8 and I was feeling great.  The incline up and over Falls Bridge hurt, but my legs were feeling decent, not speedy, but decent. We crossed mile 10 and I just put my head down.....only 5k to go!  I was hanging on to the high 5:40's which I was pleased with.
The last two miles I dug deep.

 The half marathon is my favorite distance.  I love pushing myself to see what I can do.  I knew I was going to go sub 1:20, but how fast?

 We passed mile 12 and I did some math, sub 1:17 was possible.  Put my head down and focused on finding the mile 13 marker.  And. It. Finally. Came.
 Then up that last damn hill to the finish.  1:16:23, 95th overall and 5th in the 35-39 AG.  Totally pleased with that after the year that I've had.  My brother came in with a PR at 1:28:19 and Lauren had a great race at 1:35.  All in all a great day of running.
We headed home and got ready for soccer.  The kids played two AWESOME games yesterday, such a blast to watch.

Thank you for September!

Friday, September 14, 2012

Via Marathon Pacing Report

Last weekend the closest major marathon to our house took place, starting about 15 minutes from our house in Allentown and finishing about 20 minutes in the opposite direction in Easton.  Oddly enough, I've never officially raced it, but this is the second year in a row that I've run the whole thing, pacing a family member to his third marathon finish and another BQ!

And I will say this, as a race director I don't encourage bandit'ing a race AT ALL.  Why run 26.2 on a marathon course during a race then you might ask?  Well, first of all I carried my own hydration and nutrition (as well as Doug's).  Secondly, I don't come close to the finish line, ducking off well before the line.  There are a few other things that make this event unique from a "pacing" standpoint, included a HUGE relay competition with several exchange zones and a lot of confusion and the fact that we ran 7:30-7:35 the entire race made us an impromptu pace team, at one point we had a group of about 8 people!

About 5 miles in, it was starting to warm up.
 We've had a crazy summer in the northeast / midatlantic this year.  The humidity has been through the roof and the temps have been above normal.  We were treated to some nasty storms on Saturday night courtesy of an approaching cold front which would bring down the temps for race day.  Temps at the 7am start were in the low 60's which was a welcomed change.

Doug didn't know exactly where he stood from a fitness standpoint and factoring in the cooler weather.  Last year he and I had run 3:24 to qualify him (he needs 3:30).  With better weather we decided we'd shoot for 7:30-7:40's for the first 20 miles then go from there.  That would put us at 3:15 on a great day assuming we could pick up the pace in the last 10K and it would also set us up for a 3:20 should things start to get rough.

We were consistently nailing 7:35-7:38 through the first half.  I was the designated sherpa, so I would stop at water stops and fill Doug's bottle so he always had fluid at his disposal.  Meant that I'd be doing some "pickup"s throughout the race, which was actually great training for me!
Half way, full bottle, trying to catch back up.  Sporting the new LVRR singlet!
 Everything was going spot on target as we went through half way and headed onto the towpath trail.

Here's our group at about 18-19 miles.  Nice shaded trail.
We hit mile 20 and there was no request from Doug to pick it up, so we kept at it, logging consistent miles and picking people off.  The effort definitely got harder but the pace didn't drop accordingly.  We hit the final straight away and peeled off.  Doug looked great, crossing in 3:18:18, 7:35 pace and about 12 minutes faster than he needed for a BQ.

It was a great training day for me as well.  Nearly 3:20 on the legs and great practice with nutrition and hydration.  I've really gotten to like my Power Bar powergels.  I took three of them, starting with a no caffeine vanilla, a 1x caffeine chocolate and finishing off at mile 21 with a 2x caffeine double latte!  They are a great consistency, great taste and high in sodium to replace the salt loss.

Next up, a possible double weekend....cyclocross at Nittany on Saturday and Rock n Roll Philly Half on Sunday.

Tuesday, September 4, 2012

Inaugural Saucon Rail Trail 10K - Race Director Report!

Well, yesterday some idea that Lauren and I came up with over dinner one night in June came to fruition.   "Why don't we do a running race on the Saucon Rail Trail, it's such a great trail and there hasn't been an event on it yet?"  So next thing you know we're discussing the race before Park and Recreation Commissions, Rail Trail Oversight Commissions, PennDOT, etc.

Our goals were simple:  Create a community event that showcased the excellent recreation features we have around us, put on a great event that participants will feel that they were special and to raise money for the HCM Foundation.
This made the race official and kicked off online registration.  Got us pretty excited to boot!
 We wanted to not only showcase the local features we've got, but to support the local community as well.  Our goal was to use as many local (or PA) businesses as possible.  A Coopersburg company did the event signs, a local friend did the awards, a local business made the shirts, A-Treat soda and Turkey Hill Ice Cream combined for Root Beer Floats, Saucon Valley Bikes provided the lead bike support, Bagel Basket donated the bagels, event socks were ordered through a PA company (www.mycustomsocks.com) and so on.
Upper Saucon Park served as the event HQ...beautiful Pavilion, Rail Trail access, playground, etc.
 The pieces of the puzzle were coming together.  There's no better way to give back to a sport you love or the community than to give back.  And that's a message I hope rings loudly with our children as they grow up.  Take a step back, thing about others and not yourself, step out of the box.
The kids pre-race.  Daniel was all business....
 We had set a limit on registration to 300.  Being the first event on the trail we were unsure how well it could handle a large volume of runners.  By race day we had more than sold out, 330 registrations.  We were overwhelmed by the support from the running community.  We had some incredible volunteers including 30 runners from the Southern Lehigh Cross Country Team staffing the water stop (miles 2 and 3.75) and an incredible group of 20+ family and friends.  The volunteers make the race happen, and they did yesterday despite of weather.
I love this shot, the rain was just starting to fall.  Thank you to our event photographer, Andrea Thrush!
And the skies opened up, as a sort of Christening for this first time event.
And they were off into the distance.  Joshua and I headed back to the pavilion to await the finishers.
 Back at the pavilion the rain had stopped and the families and friends were assembling.  We organized everything in anticipation of the mad rush of thirsty, hungry runners.  Our crew of volunteers did a great job.  When was the last time you had a Root Beer Float after a race?  Add some fruit, fresh Bagel Basket Bagels and COOKIES and you've got a pretty good post race feast!
Not only did the volunteers make the event, but we had some incredible sponsors...

The awards were authentic RR spikes that were taken from the old railroad.  
Top overall winners (open and master) won cash and Brooks Running shoes
We had a great crowd that stuck around for the awards and the food...
 All totaled we had over 300 finishers.  My wife did an incredible job planning the post race spread and taking charge of organizing all of the race day logistics under the pavilion.  She was the mastermind behind the colors of the shirts and the popular female cut shirts for the ladies.  I'm blessed to have a great partner in crime.

We raised over $5,500 net.  We will be donating money back to the Saucon Rail Trail Oversight Commission and Upper Saucon Township who took a leap of faith and allowed this event to go off.  And the HCM Foundation will get the remaining $5,000 in proceeds to help local families deal with the effects of cancer.

And I've gotta thank each and every sponsor.  Brooks Running, Powerbar, Physical Therapy at St. Lukes, Lamprey Systems, ORE Tool Rental, Bagel Basket, Runners World Magazine, Turkey Hill Ice Cream, A-Treat bottling, Giant, Weis, Fresh Market, Road ID, Saucon Valley Bikes, Aardvark Sports Shop, Finish Line Running Store, Emerald Carpet and Flooring and The Pidcock Company.

And thank you to every runner who came out and supported the event.

My shirt says it all (in the middle of young and old(er)) "I Love Running"




Radio Silence - Steelman Triathlon & Perk Up Race Reports

Alright, quick post to catch up here.  Wow, summer has just flown by.  Since my last post I've spent 4-6 weeks dealing with a fun staph infection.  Hopefully we're all cleared up now.  My riding and racing was quite sporadic, but I did manage to squeeze the Steelman OLY triathlon in.  Here are some shots for the day (which was a blast by the way, my wife volunteered in the transition area and it was so cool to see her at T1 and T2)....

WARM WATER, 80 degrees and no wetsuit. 
I didn't expect much, hadn't swam for 6 weeks or so since my last triathlon (Rev3 Quassy).  Ended up 29:xx which I was very pleased with, probably my best effort at sighting ever...

In for a quick T1 and off to catch up to the two waves or so which started behind me and passed me in the water....
Off to what was the biggest surprise of the day.
As I mentioned above, bike time has been very limited between my "illness" and my run training for the Mad Marathon in July.  My typical plan on this course is to "let the bike come to you".  There's a very challenging climb out of the marina (when your HR is already pegged from swimming) and some rolling, turning terrain through the park until you make your way out to the "highway" which is two lanes with two WIDE shoulders completely closed to traffic.  This year the RD adjusted the courses so the OLY cyclists would do two longer laps and the Sprint would do one shorter one.  Overall a good change (now 24.8mi versus 27 mi last year), just got a little hairy at the sprint turn around.

OK, on to the surprise, once I got onto the highway I started to feel better and better, slowly picking people off and checking time gaps at the turn around.  I headed into T2  and ended up turning the 2nd fastest bike split of the day.....1:04:xx and >23 mph.

Onto the run with a smile, thing maybe this is my favorite part of  the race?
Blazing T2 (after I scared the crap out of the relay teams that were using my bike rack to hang around on while they waited for their cyclist) and I was off on the run.  Didn't feel super strong, but kept chugging away.  The run is two laps as well and it's a great mental boost for me to keep reeling people in.

The finish line is in sight......


Ahh, sweet finish.
I crossed the line at about 2:12 or so.  10K run was 36:12, good enough for the 2nd fastest run time of the day and 4th overall out of about 450 finishers in the OLY.  Very satisfied with that.

Bad news was, that was the last time I would ride my bike for another 2+ weeks after a relapse of the infection... :-(

So, no running or riding for a couple of weeks (made for a fun vacation as well).  BUT, I had signed up for a local first time half marathon since I knew there was no way I was trained enough to do REV3 Maine (which was probably the race I was most excited about going into this year).

It was a great race, well organized and back for their second first attempt (that make sense?) at the race.  Last year Hurricaine Irene spoiled their plans, but they wouldn't give up.

I had no expectations, or no idea how my body would react after all of my down time and medication.  So I took it out easy, but felt pretty good.  First six miles I was running an average of 6:05 or so, but then the wheels fell off....  It was a tough course (1,100' of elevation gain), but I just had nothing and was reduced to walking on two of the hills.
Mile 12, looks like my next step is into the grave!
I contemplated stopping, walking back....but after doing the math I figured I could get back to my car faster if I just stuck it out.  And I survived....2nd overall nonetheless.  Time was a dismal 1:25, but I'll take it.  Just don't remind me that I ran the run course at day 2 of Quassy (just as hilly) after a 1.2 swim / 56 bike in nearly the same time!

Sweet finish line...what was I thinking?






All in all it was a great event, well run and organized.  I'm glad to support a local race in our back yard.