Just wanted to end 2017 with a quick look back at my running achievements during the past year.
My most important running milestones in 2017, of course, were running in the first two marathons of my life — first, the New Jersey Marathon on April 30 and, then, the Philadelphia Marathon on November 19.
Although I was thrilled to finish my first 26.2-mile race, I was generally disappointed in my marathon debut at the Jersey Shore.
On top of that disappointment, I had to prepare for the 10-mile Broad Street Run the following weekend. Two days after the New Jersey Marathon, I went for a 5-mile workday run during lunch and began experiencing excruciating pain in my right knee at about mile 3. I stretched it out a bit and was able to continue, but it kept on happening during my runs that week.
I tried to doing some things to mitigate the knee issue (ice, stretching, massaging, etc.) and had to resign myself to the fact that I may — for the first time — be unable to finish a race.
But — wearing a knee brace not at all suited for running (because it was all I had at the time) — and fighting through some discomfort the final five miles, I wound up finishing the Broad Street Run in a personal-record 1:27:03.
After the Broad Street Run, I took a three-week break from running to get my knee right again. I would have taken more time off, but had to tune up for a 5K held at my alma mater, Rider University, each June to benefit women’s athletics. Even with my knee issues and the heat that day, I managed to complete that in a respectable 25:02.24.
The next race I did was one that I wasn’t sure I would do until about a month before the event, and that was the Hightstown (N.J.) Triathlon, a sprint-distance tri held each year not too far from where I live. Amazingly, even though I didn’t do any open-water swim training and squeezed in only two or three training rides on the bike, I still finished 76th overall in the event with a personal-best time of 1:21:21. Somehow, despite the 1/4-mile swim and 11.2-mile bike ride preceding it, I ran what was likely one of my top-10 5K times to set that PR with a time of 25:49 during the run portion.
At that point, I turned my attention to training for the Philadelphia Marathon, with the lone exception being one last short race — the WXPN Musicians On Call 5K in early October. Even though the course may have been short by a bit, I finished that race in 23:39.69 — and then got to stay for the ever-popular post-race 80s dance party!
Then it was back to the Philly Marathon. Sadly, I was only able to get in two really long-distance training runs — a 16-miler and an 18-miler — leading up to the race. But I had done a lot of pacing work on my shorter runs and felt ready to vindicate myself from the disappointing marathon debut in April. I just wanted to finish in less than five hours.
And despite wet, brisk conditions and ridiculous, swirling 40+ mph wind gusts, I managed to do just that, finishing in 4:51:22.
So that was my year in running. Oddly, except for the Hightstown Triathlon (the event I made a last-minute decision to do each of the last two years), I don’t have any events lined up yet for 2018. But I’ll be running somewhere. Just trying to figure out what races to do.
Happy New Year!
Sorry for the lack of posts, but just wanted to write a quick recap of my run in last Sunday’s Philadelphia Marathon — my second marathon, both all-time and this year.
As you may recall, I was disappointed in how I finished my first 26.2-mile race, the 2017 New Jersey Marathon held last April. I had estimated the Sport Beans fiasco from that race cost me a good 30-45 minutes. I definitely knew I should have finished in under 5 hours.
So…let’s start at the beginning. First of all, overnight rains stopped not too long before the 7 a.m. start of the race. But in its wake were strong 15-20 mph winds with up to 45 mph gusts — and overnight temps near 60° F falling into the upper 40s during the race. This meant wind chills in the lower 40s. Ordinarily, that would be pretty comfortable running weather, but the wind was a bit of a wild card and it affected my strategy.
For my first marathon, my goal was to run a sub-hour 10K and then gradually gear down to a 12:00/mile pace for the next 15 miles or so, which I did before running into trouble around mile 18.
This time out, I wanted to try to run at an even 10:30-10:45/mile pace throughout. But I knew most of the first six miles were going to be with the wind at our backs, so I made a starting-line decision to push it a little more when I could use the wind to my advantage.
Even though my first 10K (1:00:38) wound up being 39 seconds slower than my New Jersey Marathon 10K split, I hit the halfway point of the Philly Marathon (2:10:23) about four minutes faster than I did last April. Again, I was right where I wanted to be — actually, better than where I wanted to be.
But then the race reached Kelly Drive, which we took along the Schuylkill River into the party neighborhood of Manayunk. This is where you could see the front of the pack making its way to the finish line down the other side of Kelly Drive. And even though the wind was in our faces, you could see the fallen leaves blowing into the runners going the opposite direction. This meant the wind was swirling so I could tell around mile 15, the wind was going to be an issue for most of the next 11.2 miles.
At that point, I just decided to keep going as hard as I could and take it super-easy the rest of the way. I figured there was no point in fighting the wind. Instead of walking for three miles straight (like I did in April), by mile 19, I wound up — generally speaking — walking for five minutes then running for five minutes or so over the final 7+ miles.
Since the Philadelphia Marathon utilized a real-time race-tracking app called RaceJoy, which could tell me anticipated finish time at each mile, I knew when I reached mile 24 that I was going to finish in less than 5 hours, even with the walk/run plan I was doing at that time. I decided to walk most of mile 25 and just run it out the last 1.2 miles.
And that’s what I did, and finished in 4:51:22 — a little more than 23 minutes better than my previous marathon. Considering the elements and the fact that I hadn’t trained nearly as much as I would have liked, I was much happier with this effort.
Oh, and I forgot the most important part…I discovered something I could ingest mid-race for nutrition that wouldn’t screw me up — squeezable apple sauce! Screw you, Sport Beans!
Well, exactly one week after my disappointing 5:14:25 finish in my first-ever marathon, the New Jersey Marathon, I lifted my spirits with a PR in my third Broad Street Run in four years on Sunday, May 7. Even that wasn’t easy, though.
During my training runs the week between the two races, I was experiencing pretty excruciating pain in my left knee that usually popped up around mile 3 or 4 of the run. That resulted in my having to walk or flat-out stop to stretch it out before continuing. On top of that, a persistent cold that I really haven’t been able to completely shake the past few weeks began to flare up again the Friday before the Broad Street Run.
Fortunately, I was able to fight off the cold, but all I could really do was rest and ice the knee…and hope I could get through the 10-mile run down Philadelphia’s Broad Street.
I knew I had to go better than an 8:59/mile pace to conquer the 1:30:00 mark, but I really didn’t know if I could maintain that with my knee in the shape it was in. Once again, around mile 4, I felt discomfort. But then I stumbled upon a temporary, in-race solution…by landing more on the back of my foot, it seemed to take stress off the knee. It was just a touch, but it was enough to relieve the pain enough to keep moving forward.
And I did…at a pace in the ballpark of 8:45/mile.
My Nike+ app was off by about two-tenths of a mile, but I did know that I started about 17 minutes after the elite runners started. So when I saw that the race clock said 1:18 and change at mile 7, I knew I just had to maintain my pace the final three miles to achieve my goal.
And I actually picked up the pace by a few seconds during the final three miles…finishing the 2017 Broad Street Run in a personal-best 1:27:03.
However, I nearly couldn’t walk back to my car, which was parked nearly a mile away from the finish area. About a third of the way of the way there, my knee tightened up so badly, that it was a struggle just to step up a curb. Just as I was reaching my car, it nearly gave out completely and I almost fell.
What turned out to be fortuitous was that I struck up a conversation with a fellow runner in my starting corral. I mentioned how my knee had tightened up and was causing me pain after running the marathon the week before. He said that he suffered from something similar – IT bands. I read about iliotibial band (ITB) syndrome when I got home from the Broad Street Run, and it sounds exactly like what I have been experiencing so I’m going with that diagnosis.
And that means I’m going to take a break from running for a week or two and gradually work my way back into a routine. I have a 5K at my alma mater on June 10, but that’s it for organized races in my immediate future.
Hopefully, by then, my knee will be OK because I’m announcing it here — now — that I am officially registered for my second-ever marathon…the Philadelphia Marathon on Nov. 19, 2017. It’s a couple of weeks after the Trenton Half-Marathon, which will serve as a nice marathon training run.
I just need to get the disappointment of my first marathon out of my head.
If you want to join me in registering for the Philadelphia Marathon — or the Philadelphia Half Marathon, Liberty Bell Challenge or Independence Challenge, use the link below to register:
Well, I finished last Sunday’s New Jersey Marathon, so I can now call myself a “marathoner.” However, I’m not at all happy about how it all went down.
During my longer training runs (16-, 18- and 20-milers), I went really slow…around 11:30-12:00/mile slow. I had also tried different forms of in-race nutrition/energy, such as gels and chopped-up Clif bars. Both didn’t sit well with me, so I learned about Sport Beans – carbs, energy and vitamins in jelly bean form. I figured that was something familiar to me so it might be easier to deal with. I only tried a few during a short tune-up run in the week prior to the marathon, and didn’t have an issue with them. The same did not hold true for the marathon…but I’ll get back to that later.
Here’s the good…I perfectly executed my plan for the first 18 miles of the race. I wanted to run around 9:30-9:40/mile for the first 10K and wound up right at 9:40/mile for a 59:59 initial 6.2 miles. I gradually began pulling back so I would have something left at the end (at least that was the plan). I hit the halfway point in a comfortable (for me) 2:14:00. Now, I completed the 2016 Trenton Half Marathon last November in 1:59:06, but I pushed it because I wanted to finish in under two hours. For the marathon, I figured I would cover 13.1 miles somewhere in the 2:10:00-2:20:00 ballpark. Again, I was right there. It was all going to plan.
Until around mile 18.
After the halfway point, I ripped open the pouch of Sport Beans and took 3 to 4 beans with some water. And everything was fine. So at mile 18, I decided to consume the rest of the beans – again with some water (as instructed by the packaging). Well, the same issues I had with gels and Clif bars reared its ugly head again…I couldn’t really get the beans down, which kept the water from going down properly. With each stride, I could feel the water sloshing around just below my chest and it was making me nauseous. I thought I could walk it off, but I wound up walking most of the next three miles.
What was really frustrating was that I wasn’t fatigued. I would’ve still been running if it weren’t making me feel sick. I mean, I would have probably been at a slow 10:30-11:00/mile pace at that point, but it still would have been better than a walker’s pace.
After reaching mile 21, I had enough of walking. I decided to get rid of the water the quickest way possible…I sat down on a curb just off roadway, stretched my legs out a bit and forced myself to throw up the excess water.
And I felt SOOOOOO much better after that. My legs had tightened up a bit, but after a few minutes, I was running again – albeit slowly. With about 1 1/2 miles left to go, I decided to give it all I had until I crossed the finish line…with a time of 5:14:25.
So, yeah, after a comfortable 2:14:00 first half, it took me 3:00:25 to complete the final 13.1 miles…I find that completely unacceptable.
After I finished, I immediately said to my wife and parents that I was never doing another marathon. By the next day, I was visiting the Philadelphia Marathon website and making plans to get the sour taste of this first marathon experience out of my mouth.
It’s apparent that I don’t have the digestive abilities to consume in-race nutrition in either solid or gel form. It just disrupts things for me. From now on, I’m just going to stick with a water/sport drink mixture.
Up next for me is Philadelphia’s famed Broad Street Run on Sunday. I completed last year’s 10-miler in 1:31:52. My goal this year is to come in under 1:30:00. Accomplishing that will go a long way in clearing the disappointing marathon experience from my mind.
Just wanted to share a quick update on my training for my first-ever marathon — the 2017 New Jersey Marathon, taking place Sunday, April 30.
Since my last update, I completed my farthest run to date, a 20-mile training run in 3:49:41 on April 9. This marked the final long training run that I did s part of the NJM-organized group training runs, which also included a 16-miler on February 25 and an 18-miler on March 12.
During both group training runs, I ran with the slowest pace group (mostly between 11:30/mi and 12:30/mi pace). During my solo runs, I’m experimenting with some pacing tricks to improve my overall time, with mixed results.
I’ve basically resigned myself to the fact that I’ll likely be finishing somewhere between 4:30:00 and 5:00:00, depending on how things go. I mean, I’d love to surprise myself with a sub-4:30 time on race day, but the chances of that are slim at this point.
As a weather geek, I’ve been monitoring the GFS model runs for the past few days…rain is definitely a threat for coastal New Jersey, although the four model runs have it holding off until after the race or even into the following day, so I hope that trend continues. That said, it’s showing it to be a bit on the warm side, with temps already in the mid-60s by sunrise and going into the mid-80s by mid-afternoon. But, really, if it’s in the 60s/low-70s with overcast skies – with no rain – and a light sea breeze, that would be absolutely fantastic.
And then the following week will be the 10-mile Broad Street Run in Philly. This will be my third Broad Street Run in four years. I’m hoping to finish that in less than 1:30:00. That’s right around where I’m at right now for a 10-mile run, so I should be able to achieve that.
If you want to follow my progress, track my training runs via my Instagram feed.
Going into these longer-distance runs, I’ve made a conscious effort to go at a very slow pace. I’m more concerned at this point about covering the distance without struggling or discomfort. So both times on these group training runs, I’ve run with the slowest pace group (mostly between 11:30/mi and 12:30/mi pace).
You may recall that I went into this training last year with the goal of finishing in around 4 hours. I’ve since revised that to a more realistic 4:30:00 or less. But even that is probably way too optimistic. At this point, with a month to go before the marathon, if I can finish in less than 5 hours, I’ll be happy. Also, it gives me way more room to surprise myself with a better result.
Oh, and one more thing…I was selected in the entry lottery for a spot in this year’s 10-mile Broad Street Run in Philly, which takes place one week after the New Jersey Marathon. This will be my third Broad Street Run in four years. I’m hoping to finish that in less than 1:30:00. That’s right around where I’m at right now for a 10-mile run, so I should be able to achieve that.
If you want to follow my progress, track my training runs via my Instagram feed.