Texts from Marathon Training

One of the best experiences of my running life has been completing the Dopey Challenge with my brother and a close friend. Running through the parks side by side with my brother is one of the most amazing things I have ever done. Part of what’s made it so fun for me has been being with him on his journey as he trained for the marathon. It’s been funny, challenging, and a true joy. Since we live in different parts of the country, the training process has been chronicled in a series of text messages to each other. Here are some highlights – a representation of what training for a marathon is really like.

October – getting the running bug

I made a decision. 2015 I want to run the Detroit Marathon. Yup. Gonna happen.

I had popcorn. And someone brought in homemade chocolate chip cookies. Totes for realz. I want that cookie…

Oh. I has a sad. Ate back all the calories from running today. Food is too delicious.

Gah. Something in me is broken. Going to an Arkansas wedding this weekend. On the internet looking for running trails.

November – mileage gets higher…text revolve around food.

I hunger. I must feast. That is how I have felt all day.

I have snacks hidden and hoarded. I will not be denied.

I feel like a squirrel prepping for winter. Eating and hiding food to eat later all at the same time.

I spend too much time running of thinking of running right now. Literally I have spent lunch planning and writing in excel my fuel strategy.

December  – things start to get serious and race planning begins.

13 is no worry anymore. Which is nice. And 16 was easier today. That last mile is killer though.

Working recovery now.

My goal is to enjoy the 5, 10, and half. My biggest goal for the marathon is to ride the ride and cross the finish line.

40 and pouring rain. Not running today outside. Rest day! Christmas miracle!

Post-race.

357 days and 15 hours. January 6 2016. Who is in for runDisney?

Troy Conquered 26.2: Part 3

Dopey Challenge in 3 Parts – Part 3: Marathon

0300 comes very early. The family got up though to support the three of us who were running: me, Amy, and Dr.Rachel. Everyone was tired and tired of being in the cold but we had one more day left. It was great having that support especially as we headed off to the buses and the start line. 22.4 miles down and 26.2 are left. It is a crazy long distance, the marathon, and I have no idea why people (specifically me) ever signed up for something like this.

Troy's First Marathon

Dr.Rachel decided to let everyone know that not only was Troy there to run, but he was running his first marathon (awesome shirt sis). The shirt drew cheers and compliments along with the occasional “are you crazy?” from spectators and other runners. Turns out, running 22.4 miles leading up to your first marathon is not normal. Even one of Dr.Rachel’s running friends (also down from CT for the race) was caught off-guard. He had assumed that since I was running the Dopey Challenge, I had run marathons before. Nope, not the case.

As soon as the gun went off for our corral, we headed out. Cold and dark, we had done this three times already. Amy, Dr.Rachel, and I hit our pace and were on our way to hours of constant running fun. We cruised to the 5K marker with Amy and then convinced her to stick with us through the 10K. Congrats to Amy on a longest straight running record. The first 10K felt great, sun was coming up and the temperatures had improved. We stopped for a picture in front of the Castle and kept pushing.

Magic Kingdom is fun to run through and really a highlight of the Disney races. Once you get through it you turn back around and jump on the Speedway for a lap. While there were some cool cars, I could have done without the embankments and harder concrete. Then off we went to the lovely hidden back areas of Disney with the miles and miles of roads tourists never see. The waste water treatment plant was of particular fun though we were blessed with very little wind and cool temperatures making it bearable. This whole time Dr.Rachel is chatting away but I can’t recall a thing we talked about. It was mechanical; one foot in front of the other, just kept moving and gaining distance.

I was amazed at how good I was feeling when we entered Animal Kingdom. We had been keeping a great pace and perhaps too fast. Though Expedition Everest was opening it would have been 30+ minutes and I couldn’t stand the idea of sacrificing the time. We ran by it and headed past Animal Kingdom for the 13.1 miles marker and half way point. 35.5 miles in the Dopey Challenge and all systems were still going pretty well.

The next almost 10 miles are a blur. There was the ‘highway to hell’ and ESPN Wide World of Sports. We had hit about 20 miles and the discomfort (using proper Dr.Rachel terms) was really setting in. I had run 20 miles in training so I knew what to expect but the rest was all new territory. I started to take a few walk breaks and just remind myself that it was only 10K or 5K more. That back stretch at 19-22 miles is tough both physically and mentally. Then you hit Hollywood Studios, quickly followed by Epcot. That changes everything.

Hollywood Studios was fun because people were coming into the parks. The watched in both wonder and bemusement as the sea of sweaty people charged by. Many brought signs, more just brought loud voices to cheer on the runners. It was great. The Boardwalk was lined, absolutely lined, with people — all of them cheering. It was fantastic to see so many out and it really helps to propel you through the end of the run. Things are blurry. It had been a long day, a long week.

Epcot is hard to explain. Tired, hungry, in discomfort, just worn down from days of running you enter the Epcot grounds to thundering music. Dr.Rachel says it is the marathon score they use only for this event. It sounds like something from an adventure movie; epic and blaring. It is the perfect score for finishing the marathon. You hit Epcot, hear the music, see the crowds, and realize how close you are and it is hard to not get revitalized. It is like a switch goes off and all you want to do is start sprinting to the finish line (the one that is still over two miles away).

Immediately before the finish line, there is a choir singing. I don’t know who came up with this idea or which group sings but I don’t know the last time I was so relieved. After 5 hours and 30 minutes of running, the end was literally just around the corner. We turned the corner to see our family waiting in the stands shaking signs and cheering us on as we barreled through the finish line.

At 5 hours 34 minutes and 55 seconds I became a marathoner.

Disney Marathon 2015

Three weeks later and ‘the feels’ still get me to think about it.

 

Troy Conquers 26.2: Part 2

Dopey Challenge in 3 Parts – Part 2: 3 Days and 22.4 Miles

Florida is supposed to be warm, even in January. Florida is not supposed to be approaching freezing temperatures. When we woke for the 5K, the temperature was < 36oF. Even my hardy Michigan constitution was not prepared for the cold. Normally, I have a full complement of long sleeve shirts and long pants to fight off the cold. I did not pack much and I did not pack anything that went with my costume. This is Disney – you have to run in costume, especially when you are only running 3.1 miles.

My wife and I went as Pain and Panic from the animated Hercules movie. It was awesome to hear people recognize us and compliment the costumes – hand made by the wife. I ran the 5K with my wife and took a nice easy pace. It was crowded and for someone who runs solo 99% of the time, it was the most challenging aspect. I understand people will walk these races but fighting through a sea of people who would walk 5-wide across the road was challenging. The run was fun but too crowded for me. After the 5K, it was again off to the parks and this time Magic Kingdom (super fun times).

Pain and Panic

Seriously Florida? It was a cold morning for the 10K again. Thankfully we didn’t get rid of the Mylar blankets and hand warmers from the day before. We needed them again and once again found ourselves in a parking lot for over an hour waiting to start the race. Thankfully, Dr.Rachel had brought us some fantastic Lululemon gear (yay Christmas presents) that got put to use immediately.   We did family shirts as most of the family was running, thus we could layer up a bit better. Just like the 5K, the 10K was crowded and challenging to move through. I had moved back to my wife’s corral and started last which was likely part of the problem. Again, the course was flat and fun for a rather leisurely pace. We finished in good time and good spirits. Two races down and feeling very good we took the rest of the day a bit easy.

Family

Half marathon time. Third morning of waking up at 0300 and prepping to run. We were tired and tired of being cold. The half was supposed to be warmer during the run but the morning was still chilly. I jumped back in to the wife’s corral and started with her again. After about 5 miles we broke and I headed off alone. I was focused on time and making sure I hit my 16 min/mile pace requirement. There was no stopping allowed for miles 6 to 13.1. I picked up the pace and cruised, catching and passing my mother and Dr.Rachel who started several corrals ahead of me. My Chef Linguine (Ratatouille) costume always draws a few compliments and reminds me why Disney is great for races. People are here to have fun as much as they are to run. I can’t say I remember too many costumes I passed besides a family doing a spectacular “Up”. For me, this race was all about getting through and then resting for the big show on Sunday. I got my snack box in time to wander to the finish and cheer on the wife as she crossed.

After running the 22.4 miles it was time for rest, food, sleep, and worry. Three days and three races down! I had done well and was feeling great still. Next up: the marathon.

Love the Treadmill

Generally, most coaches, myself included, only recommend using the treadmill for a portion of runs, or when running outside is unsafe during a training cycle. Given that races are generally held outside on the uneven ground, it’s important to get used to running on uneven ground, with wind resistance, and on courses with turns for best race results. The treadmill doesn’t do a very good job of replicating real race conditions since you can only run evenly in one direction on a nice, soft, smooth surface.

Generally speaking, treadmill running is easier than running outside. The moving belt enables faster leg turnover, making it easier to run faster with lower effort levels. The soft, bouncy surface of the treadmill also doesn’t enable to same soft tissue adaptations as running on a harder surface, so soft tissue injury is a possibility when returning to the road. Finally, there are no adverse circumstances on the treadmill – no weather, no turns, no cracks, no lumps and bumps. The body and mind don’t have an opportunity to adapt to the reality of running in imperfect conditions, on an imperfect surface. There is also a distinct psychological benefit to running outside that has been established in several studies. Research suggests that runners simply enjoy outdoor running more, and feel better after an outdoor run. (Side note: as a mental health professional, I find this super interesting. If you do, too, check out this article and this study – put them in Google Scholar for best results)

That being said, there is no evidence that running on a treadmill is detrimental. There are a number of studies to this effect, and the treadmill is a well-established training tool for runners at every level. Most people accept that treadmill running is just fine if it is done well, with proper mechanics, and in moderation.

If  you’re planning to use the treadmill for a portion of your training, here are some great tips to love the treadmill.

First, monitor your form to avoid injury. It’s hard to love the treadmill if it’s hurting you. It’s best to run most of your treadmill runs at a pace that feels easy and use the treadmill for speed work cautiously. The treadmill enables a runner to program a pace and hold that pace long after the runner tires. Running a too-fast pace when you’re tried on a moving belt can result in over-striding, landing with the foot too far in front of the body. Running a too-fast pace on a moving belt can also result in all manner of problems with running form. Poor form and over-striding can lead to hip, knee, ankle, and hamstring pain. To resolve this, monitor your form and your stride rate. If you stride rate is lower than at the same pace outside, you’re over-striding, using the belt to propel you, and at risk for injury.

Run a variety of runs on the treadmill. It’s temping to run the same pace at the same incline mile after mile, settling into a treadmill routine. The treadmill belt’s flat, smooth, uniform surface ensures that you work your muscles and joints in exactly the same way. Too much of the same is a bad thing and can result in repetitive stress injuries. For treadmill happiness (and less boredom!) change up your run, using the treadmill’s programs, or running a variety of speeds and inclines on each treadmill run. I’ve already posted two of my favorite winter treadmill runs – the SportsCenter run and the college basketball run. Here are two other treadmill runs I love:

  1. Commercial Fartlek – Warm up 10 minutes at an easy pace. When a commercial comes on, increase your pace by 30-60  seconds per mile until the commercial is over, at which time you return to the easy pace. Continue on until you reach the desired mileage or time. Warm down by running 5ish minutes at a 1-0% incline.
  2. Character Fartlek – Warm up 10 minutes at an easy pace. Select a particular character in the show/game. When the character comes on, increase your pace by 30 seconds per mile until the character leaves the scene. If the character speaks or does a target activity in the scene, increase the incline by 1%. Once the character stops speaking or leaves the scene, return to the easy pace. Continue on until you reach the desired mileage or time. Warm down by running 5ish minutes at a 1-0% incline.

Finally, make your treadmill run as much like an outdoor run as possible. Even if you could just pop your water bottle on the console, carry your bottle or wear your belt as you might outside. Wear appropriate running shoes, not beat up old gym shoes, and use the treadmill as an opportunity to mimic race conditions. Practice slowing down to drink if you normally do, or wear a race-day outfit that isn’t appropriate for your outdoor conditions (a great option if you’re like me and race in warm weather conditions on vacation during a frigid winter). The more you can vary your treadmill running, and make that running as close to outdoor running as possible, the safer, and happier you’ll be.

Treadmill running

Troy Conquers 26.2: The End is Nigh

For the past several months, I’ve had the great pleasure of coaching most of my family members for the Disney Marathon Weekend races. It has been a wonderful journey, and great fun to see each of my family members growing through the training. The best part of coaching my family has been working with my brother as he trains for his first marathon – as part of the Dopey Challenge. I am so deeply proud of him that it stuns me. Every time he achieves a new goal, I am filled with pride. The best moment was this:

Troy's Garmin

The text he sent me following his *second* twenty-miler. He’s amazing. I even got a little misty-eyed reading his texts. It has been truly my pleasure to see him finish this training. Here’s his take:

I ran the Volkslauf 20K in Frankenmuth, MI on July 4, 2014 as my first long race (more than 5K) since Disney in January.  I had trained well through the summer, but missed long runs or workouts along the way.  Still, I dropped 2 min/mile off my expected half marathon time and finished without injury.  It was a success.  The next day, I ran a 5K with Dr. Rachel as a shakeout and a glimpse as to what would come in January again.  I had never done back to back races and probably very few back to back runs.  But that was the future for me – training for Dopey and running back to back to back.

Thus, I consider July 5th as my training start date for the Dopey Challenge.  I started out following the Disney supplied plan. Then, in September, I switched to the Dr. Rachel prepared plan.  Since then, I have followed it as best I can; running through Lake Fayetteville in Arkansas, West Hartford in Connecticut, treadmills, and the Pere Marquette Rail Trial here in Michigan. Since training started, I have logged 406 miles running – 113 of which came in November alone.  Even as temperatures have dipped in Michigan, I have stayed outdoors; trying to avoid the mistakes and injuries of last year.  Staying healthy and getting stronger (running) has been a huge priority.  I have missed out or skipped out on things so much that I am sure my friends and wife are sick of hearing “I would love to but I have to run tomorrow”.  But the end is nigh.

In an early post (August,) I had mentioned my weight loss goals.  When Dr. Rachel visited for the Volkslauf, besides being my running coach, she also helped me with changes to my eating habits.  I don’t say diet.  I still drink beer, eat pizza, and grab fast food (sometimes while still in running clothes).  Nothing has been cut but instead portion size monitored and better decisions made.  I am down 48 pounds, feeling better than ever, and I think it has translated to better, faster run times.  The holidays are a hard time to skip the eggnog, the cupcakes, and the thirds at family dinner.  But the end is nigh.

There are 15 days, 15 hours, and 8 minutes (as I write this) before the Walt Disney World Marathon Weekend.  While I expect some of my new habits will carry with me into the future, the end is nigh.

Hot to Trot (and Shop!)

I love themed races and, even more than that, any race where I can wear a costume. Thanksgiving is the perfect time to run in costume and be part of a big theme race. I’ve written about my love of the Turkey Trot before, but I think it merits revisiting. In fact, the entire Thanksgiving weekend is my favorite time of year. I love the food, the events, and, truth be told, the shopping.

This year, like many other years, I ran the Manchester Road Race, a local race that happens to be a famous event. It is run every Thanksgiving Day in Manchester, CT. I love the Manchester Road Race and the great camaraderie it inspires. First, I made the big decision of the day – which turkey hat to wear!

Turkey hats

I got bundled up for the cold and headed out to the race. I found my friends and got lined up for the race.

MRR

This year was a great example of runners united. As we were lining up for the race, the organizers experienced some problems with the public address system. The sound was cutting in and out throughout the morning announcements. When the National Anthem began, the sound system cut out. Thousands of runners united to sing the remainder of the song. It was a great moment.

The race got started and I finally made my way across the start line. As always, the race was crowded and I ran-walked the first several miles. Things finally got going and I ran the final two miles at a respectable place. I always enjoy the great crowd support at the Manchester Road Race. All along the course spectators were cheering, partying, and having a great time. The whole atmosphere was festive and I loved it.

When I got home, I got to cooking and prepared my Thanksgiving dinner. It was delicious!

Thanksgiving

After eating a massive quantity of turkey, I took my time to read the Black Friday ads. I love reading the Black Friday ads. It’s great fun to see what the hot toys will be, and what the prices are on a random assortment of electronics. I made my shopping list (gloves, Rubbermaid containers, and knives) and got organized with a shopping plan. I’m never one to engage in the crazy rush hour of early morning shopping – or late night shopping as it happened this year. I like to get up at a nice, leisurely hour and then make my way to the mall. As much as I love Black Friday shopping, I don’t love the pushing and shoving that seems to come with it. I like the respectable, calm shopping that comes a little later in the day. I got the items on my list and had a great time wandering around the stores.

Rubbermaid

All in all, it was a great weekend. Happy Thanksgiving!

Wine, Dine, and Rain

I love all things Disney. I especially love runDisney events – each event is unique, and super fun. This year, I decided to try an event I had never done, the Wine and Dine Half Marathon. Mom and I signed up to do the half marathon months in advance and eagerly anticipated race day. Before I knew it, summer was over and Wine and Dine was coming up fast. Unfortunately, mom had been having some foot trouble – first with plantar fasciitis, then with a hell spur (poor mom!) so her training wasn’t quite as strong as she had hoped. Determined to persevere, mom made the decision to do the race despite her less-than-perfect training. I’m in the middle of my marathon season, so I was planning to use Wine and Dine as a training run where nice people happened to hand me water. Both of us were ready to have fun and enjoy a few miles around the parks.

As race day neared, the forecast grew more and more depressing. First a chance of rain. Then rain and cold. Then, 100% chance of rain, cold, and all of it starting around 10pm. Sigh. If you’re going to get rained on, at least let it be as Disney.

A night race is a strange thing. Mom and I got our gear together and took pictures of our flat runners.

#Flatrunner

Then we waited. And waited. I read a terrible book from the lending library at my mom’s golf course clubhouse. Mom took a disco nap. Finally it was time to leave for Epcot, where we would park, and get ready for the race. We drove up to Epcot, parked easily (and without any waiting at all), and hopped on a bus bound for ESPN’s Wide World of Sports. We got to the staging area with about two hours to spare. Mom likes to be prompt. 🙂

In the staging area, a DJ was playing dance music and teaching popular line dances. Photographers were taking pictures. Characters were available for photos. Generally, everyone was upbeat and milling around in a big field. We took a few pictures.

Wine and Dine waiting

We did some dancing. We sat on the ground and watched people. I was delighted it wasn’t raining. Mom and I had grabbed cheap, flimsy ponchos at the local dollar store, so we were prepared just in case. About an hour before the race started, we made our ways to the corrals and found a curb to sit on. We eagerly awaited the start of the race, scheduled for 10pm. At about 9:45pm it started raining. Then it started pouring. By the time our corral started at 10:30pm, we were wet, cold, and ready to see the finish line.

The course for Wine and Dine isn’t my favorite runDisney course. It begins at Wide World of Sports and follows Osceloa Parkway (the Highway to Hell, in my family’s lingo) for three miles to the main gates of Animal Kingdom. Once in Animal Kingdom, the course winds around and past the beautiful sights of Everest and the tree of life. Seeing the attractions lit up is a true highlight of the race. All throughout Animal Kingdom, the rain poured and the temperature dropped. Mom and I made time and hustled along – both to stay warm and to get to the finish faster.

After Animal Kingdom, the race course goes back out on Osceola Parkway and along toward Hollywood Studios. Finally the rain eased up and we were able to take our ponchos off and enjoy the run. It was cold, way too cold for my shorts and tank ensemble, but I was having a great time.  I didn’t know it, but Hollywood Studios had already decorated for the holidays and it was gorgeous. We ran through a road all lined in lights!

Hollywood Studios during Wine and Dine

Onward we ran, stopping to take pictures with our favorite family, the Incredibles.

Incredibles

Just after we exited Hollywood Studios bound for Epcot and the race finish, it started pouring again. I had stupidly tossed my poncho in a trash bin miles earlier, so I trudged along, soaking wet and really cold. We ran along the Boardwalk and around the Beach and Yacht Club hotel area. Amazingly, the volunteers all along the course cheered. They were amazing, and totally undeterred by the cold and rain. I am so grateful to them all for the cheers, smiles, and support those last few miles.

Finally, blessedly, we made it to Epcot and to the finish line under Spaceship Earth. I have never been happier to see that shiny ball in my life. We got our medals, mylar blankets (best. thing. ever.), and food boxes. Mom and I were smart and had stashed clothes and towels in our car, so we headed directly there, cranked the heat, and changed into dry clothes. After warming up, we made our way back to the Epcot Food and Wine Festival. We had a small gift card to spend there and planned to use it. We enjoyed a bratwurst on pretzel bun, some nachos, and guacamole before the park shut down at 4am. We closed the party down!

Back at home, I took the best hot shower ever and crawled into bed at 5am. It had been a crazy day, but the most fun. There’s nothing like a runDisney event for a little bit of running magic!

Here, There, and Everywhere

Sitting in front of my computer, thinking about what I should write for this post (maybe one of the 10 ideas I have written down…), I started to look through my recent pictures. What I realized is that I’ve been running here, there, and everywhere.

I recently wrote about my trips to pace races, but that isn’t the only travel I’ve been doing lately. A few weeks ago, I headed to Milwaukee, Wisconsin for work. The highlight of Milwaukee is the food. I absolutely love German food, and I made sure to get a lot.

Bratwurst

Running in Milwaukee is great. The streets have wide sidewalks with well-timed walk lights. The drivers are Midwest nice and allowed me to run across the street pretty much whenever I wanted. The best part about running in Milwaukee is the great scenery at the Lakeshore State Park. Lakeshore State Park is located on the shores of Lake Michigan and features miles of paved trails and amazing city and water views. I made sure to get there for my morning run and had a great time running along the waterfront for miles and miles. I saw fish jumping, bait fish schools moving, and lots of fishermen. It was the perfect lakefront run.

Just last weekend I was in Washington, DC for the Marine Corps Marathon. I had never run the Marine Corps Marathon before and was thrilled to finally get my chance. I ran as part of Team BEEF, a team of runners who use lean beef as part of their fueling strategy for a protein-rich training diet.

Team BEEF

I had been looking forward to Marine Corps for some time, and flew in early Saturday morning for the Sunday race. Saturday was a day for packet pick up and touring. My crew got to packet pick up bright and early and were greeted by a really, really long line outside of the Armory. After waiting about 45 minutes, we made our way into the pickup area, which was well organized and easy to navigate. I got my bib, did some shopping, and met up with friends. After the packet pick up, my crew and I headed out for sightseeing. I couldn’t be in DC and not enjoy the sights.

DC

After a delicious dinner, it was early to bed for this marathon girl. I got up Sunday morning ready to run. I donned my Team BEEF gear and made my way to the race start. There was more waiting in line for a bus, and then even more waiting in line for security checks to get into the runners’ area. I hadn’t really anticipated the amount of waiting in line, or walking. The race start is more than a mile from the bus drop off and most of that time was spent barely moving in a crowd. By the time we got to the line to get into the secure area, the lines were crazy. We stood in one spot for over 30 minutes. Suddenly, an hour into our wait, the line started moving. They had abandoned the checks to get everyone to the start (still a half mile away) and we all rushed in, dropped bags, and hustled to the start minutes before the race start.

The start of the race is really special, with paratroopers and flyovers from military members. It was really exciting.

Fly over

The race started on time and within minutes I was on the course. The course was more crowded than I expected, but everyone was running about my pace and seemed to be having a good time. It was organized chaos. There were plenty of spectators with great signs, loud cheers, and lots of high fives. I ran with a friend and we chatted easily for most of the race. I loved seeing all the spectators and the huge crowd support in every part of the course. The course itself is beautiful, winding through some of DC’s most important landmarks and best neighborhoods.

Around mile 20, I started to have some cramping in my left hamstring. The whole thing was tight and randomly hit me with charlie-horse type pain. I slowed to a walk, stretched, and hobbled along through the final miles of the course. Even thought I had a tough race, I loved the Marine Corps Marathon. The course is beautiful, the crowd support is amazing, and the scenery can’t be beat.

MCM finish

My Pace or Yours

One of the best parts of being a runner is the opportunity to inspire others. I coach other runners and I love seeing them achieve their goals. I also have a great time as a professional pacer. I work with MarathonPacing, a great marathon and half marathon pacing company, and absolutely love the work that I do as a pacer. Recently, I’ve had the wonderful opportunity to pace two great races, the Mohawk Hudson River Marathon and the Wineglass Marathon events.

The Wineglass Marathon and its associated events is a great weekend of racing in an adorable town. Wineglass takes place in Corning, New York, a charming small town famous for the glass company and museum.

Corning, NY

The race runs through nearby towns, past farms and small communities. It runs over small bridges and past forests full of turning leaves. The scenes are lovely and it’s one of my favorite half marathon courses around. This year, like last year, I paced the 2:30 half marathon group.

Wineglass 2014

I had a great group. We ran together, told jokes, and had a great time. I coasted into the finish with perfect timing and a very happy group of finishers.

The next weekend, I was signed up to pace the Mohawk Hudson River Marathon, pacing the full marathon group. I had the assignment of pacing 5:30, the course cut off. I was to be the last place finisher and guide runners who were close to the course cutoff. The Mohawk Hudson River Marathon is a great event in Albany, New York. Albany is a great town, with a charming old fashioned down town. The race is well organized and supported by a local running club.

MHRM

The race begins at a  local park, with lovely views of the changing leaves.

Mohawk Hudson

Running the course cutoff is a funny thing. Turns out that no one wanted to just squeak in at 5:30 – they wanted to crush their goals. I ran along the bike paths near the river mostly alone, but enjoyed the views and quiet connection to nature. The course is almost entirely run on bike paths through suburban parks. It’s really very nice with a few gentle hills in the middle. I loved the course and enjoyed working with my team.

Pacing is a wonderful thing and one of my favorite things to do as a runner. Next up for me is the Palm Beaches Marathon in Florida in December. I can’t wait!

Race Review: Shipyard Old Port Half Marathon

This spring I had the great opportunity to go to the RRCA national convention. In addition to the useful seminars and fun social runs, there was a silent auction benefitting the RRCA programs. I enjoy silent auctions, so I was happy to participate. A new girlfriend and I teamed up to bid on and monitor a few key items. There were a couple marathon entries I had my eye on and was actively bidding on and so did my friend. Right next to one of my friend’s bidding projects was an entry to the Shipyard Old Port half marathon. No one had bid on it. A half marathon in coastal Maine in the end of July didn’t seem to prompt much in terms of vigorous bidding. The race wasn’t too far from me, and I didn’t have anything on the calendar. I bid on the race. Why not, I thought. Thirty minutes later when the bidding ended, I had won two entries into the Shipyard Old Port half marathon.

A few months later, the Shipyard Old Port half rolled around. The friend who had wanted to join me couldn’t make it, so my husband agreed to ride up to Maine with me for a little road trip. We left at a ridiculously early time to head up to the race. The drive was easy and went by quickly. We got to the port area and were able to easily find a parking spot thanks to the parking maps that were emailed in advance of the race. The maps were clearly marked and made it super easy to navigate to a free parking lot and from the lot to the race staging area.

Race morning packet pick up was smooth and easy. I walked right up -no waiting – and got my gear. I love the race shirt. It’s a pale blue with a lovely multicolor logo design. It even fit! I knew it was one that I would wear often. Thanks to my winning entry in the auction, I got a commemorative hat and a mug. Both had the fun logo and were nicely done. I use my mug often and wore my hat this morning on my run. The hat is a nice sweat wicking hat in a comfortable fabric. The gear was nice looking and useful.

About 45 minutes before race start, I headed for the corals and the porta potties. The lines for the bathroom were epic. I cannot recall a time when I saw longer lines for the bathroom. Worse, the lines snaked out into the driving lane of one of the biggest free parking areas. Cars were dodging runners, runners were in the traffic lane. Volunteers had lost control. There were simply too few porta potties for the number of people. Probably about half as many as were required. The lines were just ridiculous. I waited 42 minutes. Then I race around the bend, down a long hallway, and into the corral. Thank goodness I wasn’t really racing – I barely made it to the corral by the time the race was to start.

Shipyard start

The start got off without a hitch, with runners racing down a huge cement dock and onto the Main Street. Inexplicably, the course went down the middle of the street, kith backed up traffic on either side. The Main Street looked nice (or at least what I could see over the tops of the cars). Very shortly, the course headed into some lovely neighborhoods. The homes were tidy and the gardens attractive. The course was fairly free of traffic and I enjoyed running in the shady neighborhood streets. It was awfully crowded, so I wound my way past other runners and through the masses.

After the first few miles in the neighborhoods, we went back down the Main Street and along the water. As we passed the fish packaging plant for the second time (horrifying and what I once thought was the worst possible smell ever), things started to unravel. I had skipped a too-crowded first water stop and the second water stop didn’t have any water poured, so I passed that, too. By the time I got to the fish plant water stop for the second time, they had no water prepared. Instead, they had a pile of cups and a hose. Runners were told to grab a cup and a volunteer aimed a hose at us. I got soaked and got about three sips of water in my cup. Undeterred, I headed along down the Main Street and up a giant hill. The top of the hill treated runners to an amazing view of the water.

The water and park views were lovely and featured Classic Maine views of boats and rocks and quiet harbors. Following the hill summit, runners headed into a park. In the park, the water stops began to be a disaster. The first water stop in the park was out of water. The second water stop had volunteers bailing water (without gloves) from big coolers. The first cup I took off the table had a dead spider in it. Literally a dead daddy long legs. I dumped it and the second cup had grass in it. Unwilling to waste more time, I picked the grass out and drank the water that was visibly dirty.

Runners then went further into the park, around a tidal marsh. The marsh was not the best. It wasn’t scenic since it was low tide and the crushed shell/sand path was extremely dusty and very hot. Dust billowed up and swirled around. The sun shone down and made the sand so hot I could feel it through my shoes. The next water stop I came to had volunteers bailing water without gloves. Again, the water was dirty. The next water stop was out of water. The next was passing out dirty water. Having no gloves on and giving out water that was *visibly dirty* was totally unacceptable.

I trudged around the marsh on the path for what seemed like ages. Finally, mercifully, it ended and we exited on to a paved bike path. For a few moments, I was so happy. We had left the marsh! Sadly, eye headed past a water treatment plant. Water treatment plants aren’t so bad. Except for when they’re churning the beds. This day, the huge water treatment plant was churning. The smell was indescribable. Truly horrific. I plugged my nose and hustled by. I passed four people vomiting. Everyone was gagging. I’ve never smelled anything so horrible in all my days. Mercifully, I passed the treatment plant and was treated to the best thing ever – a water stop. With clean, cool water. It even had music and misters. It was like an oasis. A spot of beauty. I wanted to just stop there and stay in the cool oasis, drinking my water.

I overcame the urge to stop in the oasis and continued on along the bike path. It was a nice path, smooth and level. Finally, I rounded the bend into the finish area. There were cheering spectators, race announcers, and finishers coming in. I crossed the finish line and was delighted to have finished. It was hot, I was dirty, and I couldn’t wait to find some food and water. The only problem was that I couldn’t find water. A volunteer handed me a tiny six ounce cup. I asked for another and was told that I couldn’t have one because the finish line was running out of water. The finish line had long ago run out of water bottles and was short on water. I knew I had water in the car, so I pressed on. The finish line area was total chaos. There was no organized finish chute and runners lined up in individual lines at various tables for food. I selected a table randomly – I couldn’t see what it was because the line was so long. It was a line for chocolate. I don’t eat chocolate. Next line was for pizza. I lined up, waited several minutes, and was handed one slice of pizza. I had noticed while waiting that every male runner was handed two slices of pizza. Every female I saw was handed one slice of pizza. I got my one slice and was nearly trampled by people in line. I didn’t have the patience to wait in more totally chaotic lines, so I gave up.

Shipyard chaos

My husband and I hopped into the car and went to the first gas statio no we saw for some water. Finally. The ocean views at a nearby scenic spot didn’t hurt.

Shipyard after race

All in all, I was very disappointed by the Shipyard Old Port half marathon. The gear was great. The course was interesting. But to me, there is no excuse for the lack of organization at the water stops and finish line. It is completely unacceptable to have volunteers bailing with bare hands. It is completely unacceptable to have visibly dirty water handed to runners. It is unacceptable to run out of water at the finish line. In talking to other runners, I learned that this is a persistent problem with this race. Other runners were pretty vocal on Facebook about a problem with a miscue on the course or the disgusting smell at the water treatment plant. Still others complained about the finish area chaos. I will forgive a lot of things as a runner, but not a dead spider in my water. Pass on this race.