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2019 New Jersey Marathon recap

IMG_0714Well, I was hoping to write and post this a few hours after last Sunday’s (April 28) New Jersey Marathon, but I caught my 4-year-old son’s cold about three-quarters of the way through the race and I just didn’t feel up to it until today.

First things first…I finished the race in 5:00:26. That’s much better than my 2017 NJ Marathon finish of 5:14:25 (which was my first-ever marathon) and a little better than my 5:01:29 finish in the 2018 Philadelphia Marathon last November. But it was still a tick over nine minutes more than my personal-best marathon time of 4:51:22 set at the 2017 Philadelphia Marathon.

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I really didn’t have a goal for this year’s New Jersey Marathon. I suffered a non-running-related herniated disk in mid-August 2018 that I worsened during Labor Day weekend to the point where it was nearly impossible to sleep, let alone stand up or walk. So that limited me to just one 16-mile long run prior to the Philadelphia Marathon last November, which was frustrating.

Then, as I was preparing for my long runs to train for the New Jersey Marathon, I started feeling a pain in my right hip during a five-mile run in early March. That wound up being diagnosed as trochanteric bursitis, which sidelined me for close to a month. Once again, I was limited to just one 16-mile long run before the New Jersey Marathon — and that came with less than a week to go before the race, which should be “taper time.”

With these injuries during back-to-back marathon training cycles, it’s probably an accomplishment that I made it to the starting line, let alone the finish, in both of these races. Still, coming so close to finishing in under 5 hours at Philly and in last Sunday’s race — and failing to do so — is just as frustrating as the injuries.

Sunday’s experience was made even more frustrating by two critical mistakes I made in the final 2.2 miles. But, first, a few positives…

Last Sunday marked the first time in four tries that I have ever run through the first 21 miles of a marathon. Granted, miles 17-21 were at an extremely slow pace…but it was running. I didn’t actually start walking until I hit the mile-21 marker. Even then, I only walked about three-quarters of a mile before I went back into a slow jog through mile 24.

Also, part of my strategy was to at least cover the first 16 miles in three hours. I wound up running a little over 17 miles in that time, something I had not done in over a year. That gave me two hours to cover the final 9.2 miles if I wanted to finish in under five hours.

Of course, this is where things went a bit south. Once I got through the first three hours of running, I decided I felt good enough to run through mile 21. I decided right there that I would walk a bit when I reached that point. My left calf and hamstring felt a little tight and my right hip (the one I hurt during training) was a little uncomfortable. I figured I would give my legs and hip a rest for a mile and start running slowly again.

But I started feeling better at about 21 3/4 miles so I started running slowly again a little ahead of plan. I continued at this pace for the next two miles. As I approached mile 24, I went back and forth in my head if I should pick up the pace at that point for the final 2.2 miles or hold off until mile 25. I decided to go for it at mile 24 and soon realized that was a big mistake. A half-mile later, I pulled back and started walking again. I thought that burst at 24 would still keep me on pace to finish in under 5 hours, but when I hit mile 25 the race app gave me an estimated finish time of a few seconds over 5 hours.

I picked up the pace again and was feeling strong. I was about a half-mile from the finish line and thought I had done enough to get in under 5:00:00. But about 3/10th of a mile from the finish, there is a turn onto a narrow pathway to get back onto the Long Branch, N.J., boardwalk for the home stretch. And, of course, as I get there going as hard as I could at that point, some bigger dude is right in the middle of the path going at a much slower pace. Maybe I was too polite, but I decided to wait it out and stayed behind him until we hit the boards. But I have to tell you, that 30-foot stretch felt like it took forever to clear. I was finally able to pass him on the boardwalk, but I couldn’t get back into the same gear I had been in until I got into the chute before the finish line.

My initial finish time was 5:00:08 before being revised up to 5:00:26, so the estimated finish time the app had been telling me was apparently misleading me all along. Still,  that way-too-early push at mile 24 and my decision not to pass a slower runner in the final 3/10th of a mile probably cost me a sub-5:00:00 finish. And, really, if I had been able to get in a couple more long training runs, I likely would have set a PR.

After the race, I decided I’m probably going to pass on any marathons over the next year or two. I have some fitness goals I would like to reach first. Maybe at that point, I’ll revisit 26.2-mile races.

Next up is Sunday’s Broad Street Run in Philadelphia. Yep…for the second time in three years, I’m running a 10-mile race the week after a marathon. Two years ago, I PR’d at Broad Street with a 1:27:03 finish the week after running my first-ever marathon. Hopefully, I can do it again.

However, it appears I’ll be running in rain with temps in the 50s for a second straight Sunday. Actually, it only rained lightly at times during last Sunday’s New Jersey Marathon. Current guidance has light-to-moderate rain — with some isolated heavier rain at times — falling throughout the entire Broad Street Run. So, yeah…fun times!

A few random thoughts on the 2019 New Jersey Marathon:

  • When I ran this race in 2017, I was shocked at the traffic at 6 a.m. on Route 36 between Eatontown and Oceanport (the race starts at Monmouth Park there) as runners made their way to the parking lot — and that was even with police directing cars to make a direct left turn on Route 36 toward the start area instead of having them use the jughandle. I spent about an hour in that traffic jam two years ago and wound up peeing against a tree because there was no time to wait for a porta-john. This year, I went the back way to the parking lot and reduced my traffic time to 15 minutes…leaving me plenty of time to use the proper facilities and get to my start corral stress-free.
  • About two miles into the race, I hear Donna Lewis’ 1996 hit “I Love You Always Forever” emanating from another runner next to me. I never start conversations with runners during races. Actually, I generally never start conversations, period. But, to me, this was the most random thing ever so I turned to her and said, “I have to say, I totally did not expect to hear Donna Lewis this morning.” She said that she came across the song while putting her race playlist together and decided to add it. I then shocked her when I let her know that I actually saw Donna Lewis live when she played the first Riverfest at then-Mercer County Waterfront Park in Trenton, N.J., back in 1996 or ’97.
  • Many signs that spectators hold up for runners have a variation of “Touch Here for Power” messages with some kind of target on it. Well, at least one guy on the course was holding a blow-up Donald Trump doll with a sign saying “Punch Trump.” Well, I hit the shit out of that thing and you know what? It actually did pump me up for a good half-mile.
  • So the narrow walkway that cost me a few seconds with 3/10th of a mile to go? Well, I really don’t understand why the course is set up like that. If you look at the picture below, there is a much wider path (green line) just a few feet beyond the narrow path (red line) that also bypasses restrooms on the boardwalk, which also makes the course a bit narrow in that spot. Why not just send the runners along the green line into the final stretch along the boardwalk? It might mean moving the finish line a few feet, but it wouldn’t be a major shift. So weird.
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BK Bulletin – April 2019: Ten Years Ago…

Issue 9 (April 13, 2019)

Ten years ago on April 10, I asked Alison to marry me…on her birthday. Fortunately, she hadn’t had coffee yet and obviously wasn’t thinking clearly, so she said “Yes.” That very night, I backed my friend Christian Beach on organ, accordion percussion and vocals for his CD release party. Ten years ago on April 13, the Phillies lost their voice, Harry Kalas. Here is a look back April 2009, a recap of this year’s Phillies Opening Day with Graham, another new song from me, and a few more odds and ends…

Continue reading “BK Bulletin – April 2019: Ten Years Ago…”

BK Bulletin – March 2019: Welcome Bryce Harper & RIP Mark Hollis

Issue 8 (March 19, 2019)

Even though I sent February’s newsletter with about 2 1/2 days left in the month, A LOT has happened in just the two weeks or so since then, so here are some musings about a huge loss in the music world, a huge win for the Philadelphia Phillies and their fans, and a whole lot of odds and ends…

Continue reading “BK Bulletin – March 2019: Welcome Bryce Harper & RIP Mark Hollis”

Philly becomes Harper Valley P.T.A. (Phillies Titles Ahead)

Bryce Harper (Photo: Matt Hazlett/Getty)
Bryce Harper (Photo: Matt Hazlett/Getty)

Bryce Harper is a Philadelphia Phillie.

During the entire baseball offseason, the Philadelphia Phillies were expected to sign one – or possibly BOTH – of the top two free agents available, infielder Manny Machado and outfielder Bryce Harper. Phillies majority owner John Middleton was quoted as saying the team would spend money this offseason, and “maybe even be a little bit stupid about it.”

Fair or not, that add-on statement was twisted into the phrase “stupid money” and it raised the expectations among the media and fan base for the team to put that stupid money where its mouth was.

As the free-agent market dragged on into February, there was speculation that the prices for Machado and Harper might be dropping to the point where maybe the Phillies could possibly sign both players.

But then, out of nowhere, it was reported on February 19 that Machado agreed to a 10-year, $300 million deal with the San Diego Padres. Based on media reports and other speculation, this was about $20 million more than the other offers out there for him. Phillies general manager Matt Klentak received a call from Machado’s agent, Dan Lozano, before Machado accepted the Padres’ offer to see if the Phillies would match. By that point, the Phillies apparently made enough progress on the Harper front that they declined the opportunity. Thus, Machado signed with the Padres.

That left just one of the big free agents on which the Phillies could spend their “stupid money.” And this fact also allowed Harper’s super agent, Scott Boras, to re-engage some teams that had fallen back in the race for Harper.

Middleton and his wife, Leigh, flew out to Harper’s home in Las Vegas and to have dinner with Bryce and his wife, Kayla, on Friday, February 22. The objective was to show the couple that the Phillies were about family. The couple were supposed to return the following morning, but extended their stay into the afternoon.

But that still wasn’t enough to get a deal done. Officials from the Los Angeles Dodgers visited the Harpers the following night. A couple of days later, a contingent from the San Francisco Giants came calling. The Phillies, who had been viewed as the only team willing to offer the long-term deal Harper was looking for, were suddenly fading in the race for Harper.

As this was happening, the Colorado Rockies signed star third baseman Nolan Arenado to an eight-year, $260-million extension. This took Arenado off the free-agent market for next season, which now gave Boras more ammunition to get more money for his client. With Arenado off the market after the upcoming season, would the Dodgers and Giants adjust their level of commitment to Harper?

For the Giants, the answer was “yes.” Reports emerged they were now willing to go to at least 10 years. Meanwhile, the Dodgers offered a reported four-year deal for about a little under $45 million per season.

On the morning of Thursday, February 28, media buzz depicted the Phillies’ chances of signing Harper as remote. Other reports suggested they no longer had the best offer on the table.

But then at 2:50 p.m. ET, MLB Network’s Jon Heyman tweeted this:

“Bryce to the Phillies.”

After 118 days, the Bryce Harper Free Agency Saga had finally come to an end. And it ended with him as a Philadelphia Phillie.

Soon, the contract details came out: $330 million for 13 years, with no opt-outs and a full no-trade clause. Not only was Harper coming to the Phillies, but he was committing to the team for what is likely the remainder of his career.

While the $330 million broke the record for total contract value set by the $325 million extension Giancarlo Stanton signed with the Miami Marlins in November 2014, it meant that the annual average value (AAV) of the contract was only $25.4 million. This is a remarkably team-friendly AAV for such a monster contract, and Boras revealed that this was by design.

“He wanted to go to one city, stay there, build a brand and identity and recruit players,” Boras said. “He wants to tell players: come play with me. He knows it will help winning more if he’s with one team the whole time.”

Basically, Harper wants to be the LeBron James of Major League Baseball. He wants to bring the best players to Philly and build a winner around him, and his contract gives the team the flexibility to do just that.

For instance, the best player in baseball, Los Angeles Angels outfielder Mike Trout, who grew up in nearby Millville in southern New Jersey, potentially becomes a free agent after the 2020 season. Could the Phillies reel in the biggest fish (excuse the pun) of the free agent pool two years from now? The opportunity may be there.

Of course, the Angels will try to sign Trout to an extension. He is the face of the franchise and team owner Arte Moreno is one of the richest owners in baseball. Trout even reaching free agency is far from a slam dunk.

However, the morning after Harper signed with the Phillies, Trout said some things to the media that appeared to signal his impending free agency may be more likely than most believe.

Fabian Ardaya, who covers the Dodgers and Angels for The Athletic, tweeted that Trout said he would not negotiate an extension with the Angels during spring training or the regular season over the next two years before his contract expires. This would leave only the next offseason for the Angels and Trout to discuss an extension (and possibly a few weeks between the end of the 2020 regular season and when free agency starts after the World Series is over, assuming the Angels don’t make an unexpected deep postseason run next year). Now, that’s about four months, but it’s a period of time where vacations and holidays really condense that to closer to three months. That is a very limited window.

Personally, I had been strongly in the camp of people who expects Trout to sign an extension to remain with the Angels beyond 2020. But these comments have me leaning considerably more toward the “he’s going to walk” camp.

Regardless of Trout’s availability via free agency after the 2020 season, the Phillies are stacked now and – thanks to Harper’s team-friendly contract AAV – have the flexibility to add top-flight free agents and lock up current stars like recently acquired catcher J.T. Realmuto or first baseman Rhys Hoskins to remain a power for many years to come.

Harper wants to win, and wants the Phillies to win a lot during the next 13 years.

I, for one, am there for it.

RIP, Talk Talk’s Mark Hollis – an overlooked genius and legend

Mark Hollis of Talk Talk was a genius and legend in the music world, as far as I’m concerned. Upon hearing of his passing today, I wrote the following for my Tandem With The Random blog.

Tandem With The Random

Mark Hollis (Martyn Goodacre/Getty Images) Mark Hollis (Martyn Goodacre/Getty Images)

It was a usual morning for me. As I was making myself breakfast and drinking my first cup of coffee of the day at the kitchen counter, I was listening to the morning show on WXPN out of the University of Pennsylvania in Philadelphia.

They were going through the day’s music notes when suddenly I heard, “And Mark Hollis, the frontman for Talk Talk…”

I literally felt my heart sink at that point because I feared what was coming next. I mean, for a millisecond, I hoped beyond hope that the next words I would hear would be, “…has emerged for the first time in over 20 years with new music.”

They weren’t. Mark Hollis of Talk Talk was dead at 64.

Many only know Talk Talk from their early to mid-80s synth pop era, when they produced songs like “Talk Talk” and “It’s…

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BK Bulletin – February 2019: Better late than never

Well, I was holding off on sending this until Bryce Harper signed with a team, but apparently that’s never happening (and as I type this right now, it’s looking less likely it will be with the Phillies, but who knows?). Anyway, now we’re at the end of the month so I figured I should send this and share an epic Rider University journalism photo and some music I’ve been listening to lately…

Continue reading “BK Bulletin – February 2019: Better late than never”