Brother on the Run: Random Travel Running Moments

My amazing brother on the run has been traveling for work and has had a few hilarious runner experiences. In this post, he shares a few fun anecdotes. I know many of you can relate. Here’s Troy:

Running during a business trip can be a challenge or at least it can be for me.  Between the longer hours, tiny hotel gyms, and odd settings; getting a run in doesn’t always happen.  However, I tried during my last business trip to make the most of warmer weather and get a few runs in.  Oh Texas, always an adventure.

Pulled Over for Running

While staying near the Kemah (TX) Boardwalk, I tried to get 4-5 mile runs in every other day.  Unfortunately, this meant having a running day come during a monsoon – it was pouring rain and kept most people indoors.  I decided that I had a run to get and I was going to get it in.  Dr.Rachel has always pointed out that race day might not be perfect weather so training in sub-par weather can only help you prepare.

Fully dressed in running gear (half my stuff is fluorescent orange) including water bottle and Garmin I headed out for my 5 miles.  I was about half way through when a local cop pulled up to question me!

‘Was everything ok?’   ‘Did I need a ride somewhere?’ ‘Did I realize that it was raining?’

It was very nice of him to check on me (and I do appreciate it) but considering I have never been pulled while driving, being pulled over while running was a bit odd.  It took two days for my shoes to dry.

Most ‘Runner’ Thing Ever

After a hotel change, I was in a new city and still needing to log some miles.  I decided to do something new, something different for me.  I got dressed in all my running gear and headed to the local running store.  One question “where do you run?” was all I had for the clerks.  On The Run (Webster, TX) was great and showed me maps for both in city and trail runs in the nearby area.  I have never felt like more of a runner than going to a running store in a new city for course suggestions.

Bayou Trail Runs

The above conversation led me to the Armand Bayou trails in Pasadena, TX for a quick 5 mile run.  Not but 100 feet into my run a walker warned me about the trail ahead being ‘wet’.  It hadn’t rained for days so I thought nothing of it and continued on my way.  Mistake.  What was supposed to be a solid tempo run became some kind of crazy fartlek run where I sprinted for 100 yards and then walking through bogs and swamp pits in an attempt not to lose a shoe or fall in!  Trail runners probably laugh at this; this path is flat and covered with crushed gravel for the most part with only some slightly flood-ridden zones.  I just might not be much of a trail runner after all.

Treadmill or Beer?

I ended my trip back to the old standby: the hotel treadmill.  The particular chain of hotels I stayed at offer a cocktail reception once a week, a reception that just happened to fall right on my run night.  There is nothing like the joy of running 4 miles when, through the glass, I can see the other guests enjoying drinks and appetizers.  When I say 4 miles, I really mean 3.27 miles before I needed an ice cold beer also.  Running is hard, running when you could be drinking a beer by the pool is impossible.

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: Dopey Challenge Part 1

In case you were wondering, my brother on the run crushed his goal and was amazing during the Disney Dopey Challenge. I couldn’t be more proud or happier for him. He’s been blogging about the journey to his first 26.2 – here’s how it all went down, in his own words.

Dopey Challenge in 3 Parts – Part 1: Of Parks and Packets

Dr.Rachel always describes it as ‘taper madness’, the lead up to the race when mileage has dropped and the mind starts to waver. It was hard last year for the half marathon but so much harder this year. The last week or two leading up to the marathon had me driving the wife crazy with excess energy and nervous ticks. I couldn’t sit still. I couldn’t shake the feeling I was supposed to be doing something. I put all that energy to work in packing. We cleared the dining room table and laid out running kits for each event; individually packaged, the kits were my carry-on and the only thing that mattered.

Dining room table

We flew in on Tuesday afternoon, getting to Disney’s Pop Century resort in time for a quick dinner and beer with a work friend who was running his first half marathon. Wednesday arrived and like anyone who had plans to run 50 miles over the next four days, I spent the whole day walking around Animal Kingdom. Our Garmin Vivofit put us at 10-12 miles of walking. With the park relatively empty we did everything we wanted to and, since it was my first time at Animal Kingdom, that meant everything. I don’t think we skipped an animal or attraction. It was a great day and a great way to get acclimated to the Florida weather. It was just a lot of walking.

We left the park and headed to Disney’s Art of Animation resort to meet with Dr.Rachel and our parents for hotel check in. Both years we have stayed in the ‘Little Mermaid’ section of the resort and have been very happy with it. Quiet and a bit off the main lobby, it requires even more walking but is less crowded. After check in and unpacking, it was expo time. New this year was the requirement that each runner had to pick up their own packet with a photo ID. Last year Dr.Rachel had picked up my packet so I was not prepared. Chaos. I had no idea where to go or what I was supposed to be doing. Luckily Dr.Rachel shuttled us through the crowds and to each of the seemingly endless tables and booths to pick up our bibs and gear check bags. With pictures taken to prove we did run Dopey, we headed to the Expo to look over all the shiny merchandise. It was loud, crowded, and abuzz with excitement. Things were already selling out in the official merchandise area (this was towards closing) but I was able to find a shirt and magnet to take home.

Disney Expo

It was stressful and exhausting – too many miles at the park and too much chaos at the expo to be able to rest immediately on return to the hotel. We spent the night laying out our kit for the 5k and checking the weather report. While MI was a chilly -0oF, Orlando was expected at 35-40oF in time for the race to start in the morning. Arm warmers, trash bags, ponchos, extra layers were pulled from suitcases in order to set for a cold morning and a long day.

To be continued.

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.

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!

Troy Conquers 26.2: Shut Up Legs

Here’s a great piece from my brother about his first run with me!

 

Mistakes were made – that is how I categorize more than half my running. Whether it is signing up for things I shouldn’t (Dopey 2015!), starting out too fast (4 minute miles are amazing!), or running too far out on an out and back. Mistakes were made and now I suffer.

I volunteered to help Rachel move to her new home in Connecticut a few weeks ago as any good brother would. I know how much work moving is and understood what I was signing up for in that regard. However, Rachel decreed that while I was in Connecticut, I would join her running group for a taper run and put up 12 miles. Ok. Fine. Moving is a tremendous amount of work but a decent run should still be possible.

I was wrong. Mistakes were made. While I knew how much work moving would be, I did not know that Connecticut had hills. No one told me about this. I expected gentle rolling valleys with beautiful trees just starting to turn colors. The hills, no these mountains, in Connecticut were more than I could handle and had no preparation for attacking. Behold my normal training run (11 mile in MI):

Michigan Run

 

Elevation change of 28 feet and that is because I purposefully ran down to the river and then back up a hill. I try to add in inclines whenever I do a treadmill workout but those are by no means a HILL workout. There is one course I like to run that does have some gentle rolling hills. But not this – this is CT and this was too much.

CT Run

Garmin tells me 401 feet of gain and 362 feet of loss.

After spending two days moving Rachel I was not able to tackle the mountains of Connecticut for the full 12 mile run. I had to drop out at 8.5 miles and was very thankful to the Fleet Feet coaches for getting me back to the store and helping on cool down. As someone who had never been to Connecticut, let alone run there, I have to give a lot of credit to the running community. Not only are there more runners than I am used to, they tackle these mountains (to me) with an ease I could not.

Next time I will know what I am getting into and come planning to run hills. I just may have to train to come to CT to train again.

 

Big City, Big Running

This weekend I headed to New York City for some training (professional type training not running type training). Despite a rigorous schedule that had me indoors 9am to 10pm, I managed to get in a few workouts and a lot of city walking.

First, walking around the city is a workout in itself. Getting from one end of the city to the other takes a long time and inevitably involves lots of walking. And stairs. Stairs into the subway. Stairs from train to train. Stairs out of the subway. Then walking blocks and blocks. The city has everything you could ever want. Provided you want to walk there. Being in the city also skews one’s impression about how far is a long walk. At home, I wouldn’t walk two miles to get to a better sandwich shop if there were a sandwich shop right in front of me. Not in New York City. 20 blocks? We can walk that. 20 blocks to get to the diner we like better. Sure. I definitely got in my walking.

I also got in a great deal of NYC-style “trail running”. Part of what makes trail running great for injury prevention is the side to side motion and the unpredictable nature of the terrain. Walking in New York is great for this. Uneven sidewalks. Trash. Puddles. Scaffolding. Tourists (now, I know, technically, I’m a tourist, but I think there’s a difference between being not from the city and being a tourist). I walked around the city efficiently and definitely got a good workout for all those stabilizing muscles.

My first morning in the city, I went for a proper run. Despite high humidity, the threat of rain, and some serious pollution problems, I got out for a great run. I zipped down a few streets and hopped on the Greenway bike path near Lincoln Tunnel. The bike path is paved, smooth, and popular. Loads of runners and cyclists were zipping down the path. There were helpful crosswalk signs at many intersections and a few areas where plants had been planted. Of course, there was the usual New York assortment of trash, mysterious puddles, and homeless men. Nothing out of the ordinary. Overall, the path was a quite nice place to run. It was certainly much smoother and nicer than running on streets so I got in my miles much more efficiently.

Central Park Reservoir

Right before I left the city, I got in a great run in Central Park. I love Central Park and running through the park on a perfect day was wonderful! All in all, it was a great weekend in a fun city.

Pure Michigan Running

Over the Fourth of July, I headed to my home state, Michigan, for a quick visit. While in town, I couldn’t resist a few races. First up was the Volkslaufe. Volkslaufe (German for “the people’s race” is one of my favorite Fourth of July traditions. What started as a small, hometown race has grown over the years. This year, the race was featured in Runners World Magazine. What I love about the Volkslaufe is that, despite its growth, it hasn’t lost the hometown charm. For example, a giant tractor greeted runners at packet pick up, held in a local event hall.

Volkslaufe packet pick up

My siblings and I were able to easily pick up our packets without waiting in line, and quickly made our way through the tiny expo. The Volkslaufe includes 4 races, a 20k, 10k, 5k, and 2k children’s race. The races are all held on July 4th every year.

This year I chose the 20k, with a course that winds through some of the best Michigan farmland. The weather was perfect, about 75 degrees and sunny. I had on my Fourth of July best, and was ready to run with my sister-in-law (who raced her way to a HUGE PR, by the way).

Volkslaufe

Runners exit town almost immediately and head out past corn fields, soybean fields, and pretty much every other crop Michigan has to offer. The views are stunning and the farmhouses are well-maintained. I loved running through the countryside. The breeze was blowing, the birds were chirping, and the course was smooth. The course began to loop back towards town, over a gorgeous old bridge and along a short dirt road. About 10 miles into the 20k, the course heads back in towards town and through lovely, mature neighborhoods. Spectators were few and far between, but those that were out were enthusiastic. Running behind the classic restaurant, Zehnder’s, the course geared up for its big finish. The last mile or so is run along the Cass River, over a classic, wooden covered bridge, and into Heritage Park. The course is one of my favorites and this year was no exception. The weather was perfect, the course was pretty, and the small-town hospitality was in full effect. It was a great day for a run!

Volkslaufe 20k Elevation

Volkslaufe 20k Elevation

Running Around the Beehive State

I love to travel, and, luckily, I get to do it a lot. I recently headed to Utah (the Beehive State) for a work meeting and got an opportunity to try some mountain fitness. Utah is a pretty cool state. I had been to Salt Lake City briefly (also check out my cool Temple pictures), but had only explored the city. This time, I stayed with a local friend and toured lots of Utah landmarks. Altitude training is no joke!

We got things off to a great start with a visit to a local gym for cycling. The Ultimate Peak Crossfit gym, owned by Coach Keena, is a great little spot. It offers a variety of classes and full triathlon training. My friend and I visited the cycling class, which included some drills, hill work, and even some interval running. Coach Keena was upbeat, and created a great workout.

Later that day, we went hiking near Sundance. The ground was dusty, but the sun was shining and the the breeze was soft. It was a gorgeous day for a hike. We went up to a waterfall and enjoyed the mountain views.

Sundance

 

 

Race Recap: Run for the Red Pocono Marathon

One of my greatest joys as a runner is pacing for races with MarathonPacing.com. I love helping others achieve their goals and pacing is a great way to see runners doing amazing things. This spring, I was selected to pace the 4:45 group at the Run for the Red Pocono Marathon. I was delighted to prepare for a new marathon.

The race wound through a number of Pocono towns, ending in Stroudsburg, PA. Packet pick up was at a local school. I met up with my fellow pacers at the expo. We greeted runners, handed out pace band temporary tattoos, and talked running with eager runners. It was great!

Run for Red expo

Race day was bright and clear with perfect running weather.

Run for Red flat runner

The day started cool and there wasn’t a cloud in the sky. I got lined up in my starting area and met my pace team. I had some great runners. Mostly new marathoners, a woman running her first marathon in anticipation of a milestone age, and brothers who had trained together. We got started running in Pocono Summit, PA along rural roads. The course began flat and roads were wide and free of traffic. The water stops were well-staffed and organized. After the first few miles, the course started to decline – as in the elevation. The course itself has a significant downhill trajectory and that started in the early miles. My pace team and I were feeling great and loving the downhills.

Run for the Red elevation profile

The roads were lovely – well paved, wide, and free of debris. The scenery was gorgeous. We ran past pine forests, deep woods, and across wooden bridges. I loved the beautiful countryside. Halfway through, the course began to roll. The hills were minor, but challenging for legs tired from the downhills. My team was great! We had fun telling stories, cheering for our fellow runners, and exploring the Pocono area. The course finally made its was into Stroudsburg and along neighborhood streets with cheering spectators. We made our way through the historic downtown and on to the school grounds. The race finished in the track stadium at the local high school.

Photo credit: Elaine Acosta, the awesome 4:30 pacer

Photo credit: Elaine Acosta, the awesome 4:30 pacer

I loved the race and would highly recommend the Run for the Red Pocono Marathon. The course was well designed, scenic, well-marked, and staffed by a great group of volunteers and staff. The race overall was well organized and supported by a strong race committee.