So…as we come to the close of the year — and the decade — I just wanted to recap a record-setting 5K and a Philadelphia Half Marathon result that was both disappointing and promising at the same time. Also, it’s 2020 Eagles Autism Challenge fundraising time, so once again I will be asking for your support.
Read on to find out what’s been going on since mid-October…
Support My Eagles Autism Challenge 10-Mile Bike Ride
For a third straight year, I am taking part in the Eagles Autism Challenge on May 16, 2020. This time, I’m participating in the 10-mile bike ride to raise funds for innovative research and programs to address autism. I hope you will consider making a donation towards my fundraising goal to help transform the lives of those affected by autism—like my youngest son, Benjamin—today and tomorrow. Thank you!
2019 Philadelphia Half Marathon recap: D’oh!
After running in the Philadelphia Marathon the past two years, I shifted gears to the Philadelphia Half Marathon held Saturday, November 23. Even though it was my fifth-ever 13.1-mile race, it was the first half marathon I had ever done outside of the now-defunct Trenton Half Marathon that I ran four times from 2014 to 2017.
As my training came to a close, I was routinely running at a 7-plus m.p.h. pace for the first hour of my runs, and slightly slower — strategically so — during the second hour. Doing this, I ran two 13.1-mile training runs in less than 1 hour, 58 minutes. My half-marathon personal record (PR) is 1:59:06, set at the 2016 Trenton Half Marathon. Those late training runs had me expecting to challenge that PR, or at least finish in less than two hours.
Well, neither happened. I had some issues with pacing the first hour of the race and hit the 10K (6.2 mile) split at 54:25, but I didn’t find that out until after the race. I was trying not to go by my running app because it is always way off during these races, but I had forgotten to look at my watch or start its chronometer while crossing the starting line timing mat. I just knew that my corral started about 20 minutes after the start of the race, so I was subtracting 20 minutes from whatever time was on the clocks at the mile markers to figure out where I was at. But it was just a guess.
The course features some steep climbs around miles 8 and 9 before entering an area of Fairmount Park I was unfamiliar with. However, I did learn from a course preview video that this part featured some up-and-downs and switchbacks before the course went all downhill at the 11.5-mile mark to the finish.
Amazingly, the last five miles felt very similar to the end of the old Trenton Half Marathon course. I knew I was going slower than my pace during the first hour of the race, but I also thought I was going fast enough to finish in under two hours. The clocks at the mile 10 and 11 markers seemed to confirm that I just had to stay under a 10:00/mile pace the rest of the way to finish around 1:59:00.
Once I started going downhill around the 11.5-mile mark, I picked up the pace a bit and kept it up until the 12-mile marker. However, the clock there wasn’t working so I wasn’t able to check my time. I decided to pull back a bit for the next half-mile or so before picking it back up for the final 6/10 of a mile, which I did.
Once I saw the finish line approaching, I accelerated even more. As I hit the timing mat, I was pretty confident I had finished in under two hours and possibly set a new PR.
Then, as I went to stop my running app, I see the text alert I had set up through the race website pop up on my phone screen.
“Finish in 2:02:05.”
Not only was it not a PR and not under two hours, it wasn’t even my SECOND-BEST half-marathon time. That was the 2:02:03.8 I ran in the 2017 Trenton Half Marathon. This run was a little more than a second slower than that!
I was stunned.
My running app said I ran 13.1 miles that day in a new personal record time of 1:54:06, but it also said I ran a total of 13.91 miles in 2:02:11. Now, keep in mind, I started my app about 30 feet AFTER I crossed the timing mat at the starting line because it is always at least a quarter-mile off during these races. I’ve seen the app be as much as a half-mile off at the end of a long race, but 8/10th of a mile?! That seemed like way too much.
When I zoom in on my GPS map in the app, there are a lot of wavy lines going off the streets I was actually on, but I can’t imagine those wayward curves add up to 8/10th of a mile in tracking errors. Also, when you use the measure distance feature on Google Maps, the finish line is roughly a half-mile farther than where you get to 13.1 miles, which is also within my observed tracker error margin.
Unfortunately, I haven’t seen any other reports of runners questioning the course distance, and faulty GPS data and a Google Maps measurement aren’t going to be enough evidence to challenge the organizers. That means I’m just going to have to accept the fact that I blew my pace goal for the final 6.9 miles. My results say I averaged a 9:19/mile pace between the 10K split and the finish line…that should have been closer to 9:06 or 9:07 per mile.
But, in the back of my head, I still believe the course was long. I have a lot of circumstantial evidence supporting that, but no hard data and apparently no support from other runners suspicious of the same thing.
Don’t get me wrong…2:02:05 is a nice time, but I expected more from myself this time out. I took too much for granted over the final 6.9 miles and didn’t pace myself correctly over that stretch to ensure that I would cross the finish line in under two hours no matter how long the course actually is.
It’s time to turn my attention to 2020 and I have goals that I WILL attain next year. I plan on running the Broad Street Run (10 miles) in 1:25:00, the Atlantic City Triathlon (Olympic distance) in 2:58:00 and the Philadelphia Marathon in 4:45:00. Those are my targets and I will hit them.
Run As ONE 5K: This one was a PR!
So…about four days before Saturday, November 9, I discovered a 5K was being run that morning at the park down the street from my house, so I decided to enter it.
What happened was that I wound up setting a new 5K PR of 24:16.17 with an average pace of 7:47/mile. My chip time was actually 24:10.37, but the course appeared to be just a few yards short of a full 5K so I ran through the finish line for a little bit to compensate. The 24:16:17 gun time was close to my app time so that’s what I’m going with.
It was kind of cool seeing a 13th place finish (out of 211 runners). And what was nice about the race is that walkers went out a half-hour earlier on a one-mile loop so it was just runners on the course.
The photos are terrible, but we managed to get to Hamilton Township’s annual Winter Wonderland at Kuser Farm Park this year.
Get to know Michaela Anne
I recently attended another fantastic WXPN Free At Noon concert featuring up-and-coming indie-country/Americana artist Michaela Anne, whose “By Our Design” from her great new album Desert Dove has been getting a ton of airplay on the radio station — and deservedly so!
The Nashville-based singer-songwriter, who spent a decade of her life in New York City, moved around a lot as the daughter of a U.S. Navy submarine captain. This is captured in her song “Child of the Wind,” one of the many outstanding tracks on Desert Dove, which I have been listening to a lot these days.
After the live radio broadcast of the concert was over, Michaela Anne treated everyone to an encore of a recently written song she hasn’t recorded yet — and it displayed staggeringly beautiful songwriting.
I can totally see her following in Margo Price’s footsteps, making the same rapid ascension from under-the-radar artist to one of the kickass women at the forefront of today’s country/Americana music scene.
Below are a couple of videos of live performances by Michaela Anne.
A cover of “‘Til I Die” by The Beach Boys
When it comes to The Beach Boys, I’ve always gravitated toward stuff like “‘Til I Die” and “Sail On, Sailor” than the more fun and traditional “surfing” songs. Thinking about mortality lately, I decided to give “‘Til I Die” a go since it kind of lends itself to a bit of a trippy/techno makeover.
Here is The Beach Boys’ original version, which stands as a testament to the tortured genius of Brian Wilson. Recording of this song was completed in July 1971 so it’s just about as old as I am. I guess the wind is still blowing for both of us.
“It’s Christmas Time Again”
Just thought that I would share the first Christmas song I wrote back in 2011, an optimistic tune called “It’s Christmas Time Again.” This version was the third iteration from 2013, and it really highlights all the 80s influences.
New Music Discoveries
Here are some recent music releases I would like to share.
Devon Gilfillian – “Unchained”
Devon Gilfillian’s first full-length album, Black Hole Rainbow, is scheduled for release January 10, so 2020 is going to start on a really good note. I’ve been waiting for this album since Gilfillian blew me away during the 2018 XPoNential Music Festival. I fully expect Gilfillian to become a household name within the next couple of years and I hope to see him live again soon. He’s opening for Grace Potter when she comes to Philly in January and it would be fun to see both of them, but I doubt we’ll be able to get there.
Beck – “Uneventful Days”
The bright, bubbly electronic dreamscape of Beck’s “Uneventful Days” — the second single from his album Hyperspace — is the result of a collaboration with co-writer Pharrell Williams, who produced much of the record. The accompanying video reflects on various phases of Beck’s career and features appearances by Tessa Thompson, Evan Rachel Wood and Alia Shawkat.
Field Music – “Beyond That of Courtesy”
The latest single from Field Music‘s upcoming album inspired by World War I and its aftermath, Making a New World, is “Beyond That of Courtesy.” The track is about the Inter-Allied Women’s Conference, an international event that promoted the idea of women’s suffrage after the war. Leaders of the movement met in Paris in 1919 and eventually were allowed to make a presentation to the League of Nations. It was the first time that women were able to formally participate in international negotiations.
Merry Christmas and a Happy New Year!
Best wishes during this holiday season and have a wonderful 2020!
2020 Scheduled Races
Broad Street Run
Sunday, May 3, 2020
Rock ‘n’ Roll Atlantic City Half Marathon
Saturday, May 16, 2020 – 6:00 p.m.
Bader Field, Atlantic City, N.J.
Atlantic City Triathlon (Olympic distance)
Saturday, August 1, 2020
Bader Field, Atlantic City, N.J.
Crest Best Run Fest 10 Miler
Sunday, October 11, 2020
Centennial Park, Wildwood Crest, N.J.
Sunday, November 22, 2020
Eakins Oval, Philadelphia, Pa.