Tag Archives: boxing day

Boxing Day Marathon: Summary

On Monday I returned to Valley Forge National Historical Park for my sixth Boxing DayMarathon attempt.


The first few years I did it by doing two half marathons in a day; one early in the morning and another late in the afternoon. I soon realized that this is actually harder than just running the total distance in one go. If you split the distance you’ll find your legs start to lock up during the day and it is really hard to get back out again.

This year, despite being very under trained, I went with the all-out straight-up marathon approach.

And it was very, very difficult!

Last year I took around 3 hours and 45 for this run. This year it was closer to 4:45.

So, what went wrong this time:

  1. Valley Forge Park is hilly. This shouldn’t be news to people that have been there before, but including circuits of the park in a long run is not such a great idea when you are under trained. I chose to start in the park, with a five mile loop, spin out for a run along the Schuykyll River Trail, and then come back for the seven mile outer loop around Valley Forge. The seven mile loop is even hillier than the main loop.
  2. Not enough training. Over the previous couple of months I had barely run. Perhaps ten miles per week in many cases, and in others less. Normally I would be up at 30 to 40 miles per week in preparation for the run.
  3. Not enough snacks. I didn’t have quite the right combination of snacks for the run and tried to put something together, but it wasn’t really quite right.
  4. Carrying extra weight. The reduced mileage and increased seasonal snacking left me carrying about 5-7 extra pounds for the run this year.

The first five miles went by quite smoothly and it was at 5.5 that I met up with my friend Ed. He joined me for 9.5 non-stop miles along the Schuykyll River Trail and the Betzwood Trail. This is the longest distance he has run without doing a walk-run combo and it was great to have the company along the route.

Mile 16 was where I started to have issues. My legs just stopped wanting to move. I tried fueling a little more and kept walking to give my legs a chance to recover. This is quite early in the run to be having issues. Once the food kicked in I was able to run again and kept going to about mile 19 where I took a bathroom break and refilled my water bottles (no, just no).

Crossing the new Sullivan’s Bridge I stopped to take a picture for someone who was half way through their first long ride since having some shoulder surgery.

The last seven miles were around the outer loop of the Park and it has many hills and is mostly non-tarmac trails. It starts with a long and steady climb. At mile 21 it started to hurt again, so I decided to switch to a walk/run strategy. This got me through to about mile 24…

At that point I had to just walk. I had nothing left in the tank at all. I felt like a bit of a sham walking around the park in my running gear but I had no choice.

At mile 25.5 I started running again and tried to keep going to the end… my car was waiting for me at 26.7, half a mile past the marathon mark.

I was sooooo glad to make it to the car. I got my thermal blanket out of the back of the car and wrapped myself up as all the walking had made me much colder than running would have done. It was done for another year. 

Next year I will prepare more. My thanks to Ed for the company during the marathon as that really helped early on.

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And he’s back…

Greetings blogosphere!

Did you miss me?

I got caught up in spending time with family and really cut back my running for the last couple of months, so I stopped updating the blog. I seem to be back now, however.

Lots to catch up on but I’ll spread that out over the next few posts.

Reasons I’m back:

  1. I managed to run my traditional Boxing Day marathon earlier this week. It half killed me as I hadn’t been running enough to really be able to do it easily. Lesson learned. 
  2. I just upgraded my Apple Watch (original) to the Apple Watch Series 2 Nike+ version… and it is lovely. 

Today’s run was my first with the new watch and it worked great.

I had a music playlist on the watch and connected my Bluetooth headset to it to get some good sounds for my run.

I then used the built-in Nike+ application to record my run…and I left my cell phone at home! 

The Nike+ app (Nike+ Run Club) is really well executed, easy to read, use and it gives good feedback through the headphones, too.

As for the gps tracking on the new watch, well it was within 0.01 of the distance that is usually measured by my iPhone, so I’m going to call that accurate. Given that the iPhone number can vary by more than that on any one run, I’m thinking this is in the right range. It was old to see the route instantly on my watch when I completed. For some reason it hasn’t picked up my heart rate info from the Apple Watch so I’ll have to investigate that.

The watch looks cool (now I sound old) and I went with the model that has the light watch and strap with Volt colored inset holes on the strap.


It goes well with my shorts and belly in this shot. Yeah, I’m going to need to work on that a little. 🙂

I’m quite looking forward to giving some updates so I won’t blow it all on this first post. Have fun out there and enjoy your New Year training routines.

Boxing Day Marathon #4

It is done. In the bag. Completed for another year. 

In the past I have had to run on icy trails while being pounded by hail stones and snow, but this year was an entirely different story.

Today it was the perfect weather for a marathon. 51F. Little wind. No rain. No sun. Just steady temperatures and a grey sky. 

I chose to base my routes around the Betzwood River Trail location as this gave access to fully functional toilets and ample parking, plus lots of other people on the trails (which is a good safety thing if the marathon attempt goes to crap).

This year I was joined by my Monday morning running buddy for the first six miles of the route. For this section we headed out towards Phoenixville along the SRT. The trail has a gentle incline out of Valley Forge National Historical Park and the dives back down to run right alongside the river. At the three mile point we looked for a trail marker (in this case a bridge), ran to it, and turned around.

All this meant that the time we got back to the cars we had 6.4 miles under our belts. I grabbed a hat and my headphones and started out. My friend, Ed, ran a little further with me, then bailed at the end of the Betzwood lot. It was nice having someone with me for the first part of the run.

My plan was to do the next ten miles as a five mile out-and-back run through Norristown. This part of the SRT is quite pretty and goes past lots of riverside homes as it passes through Indian Head. There have been some issues for people in the past as they go through Norristown but I’ve been fortunate enough never to have issues. In general, I would advise women not to run alone through this area, but there were a few doing that today (well done them). 

The five mile turnaround point was part way through one of my favourite pieces of the trail when riding a bike… A fast and gentle downhill out of Norristown Railway station. On a bike I can hit over 30mph on this stretch, but today it was a more leisurely pace.

By the time I got back to the car I had 16.4 miles under my belt and felt fine. At this point I switched out my water bottle for a mix of water and Gatorade, grabbed another Clif mint chocolate bar, and a spibelt with two extra packs of Clif shot bloks in case I started having issues with cramps.

Then it was straight back out on the trail towards Phoenixville again, this time running all the way to the Reynolds Dog Park. I turned around when the trail hit the road and my legs were still feeling fresh. Distance-wise I was a little short at 4.8 miles out, but making up the last little bit by running around the car park is sort of a tradition on these… You don’t want to end up having to run further!

Through the last few miles my legs did start to tire, but they didn’t have any cramps or muscle issues at all. I think running with the Gatorade really helped on this front. As I spotted my car I still had another 0.7 miles to run, so I headed up to the far end of the car park, ran around to see the work on the new trail bridge over to Valley Forge (very nearly completed) and then turned back towards my car. As I reached the car I got the twenty-six mile announcement and had to go a little further to get to the final number. I did feel a bit of a lemon doing this, but I see other people doing this sometimes too.

Sitting in the boot of my Mini and drinking rather remainder of the Gatorade I felt really good. My legs weren’t too achy, I had some mild soreness from my shorts rubbing (my fault and not the shorts), I had only eaten one and a half Clif bars and six bloks, but I didn’t have any cramps or real fatigue.

I did run at a far slower pace (8:50) vs. the marathon I raced three weeks ago (7:50), but that was my plan so I don’t feel too bad about that. I didn’t use a music playlist but instead listened to podcasts for a more relaxing experience.

My weight before was 147 lbs and after was 146 so I think I did a good job with the nutrition and liquid intake. Here’s a recovery photo. Apologies for the unshaven wreck.

  
All in all, I finished in 3:51:44 and feel fine. Not a record run but the first time that I didn’t have to stop and walk near the end. Small improvements all add up.

There were a lot of people out on the trail today and most of the runners said “hi” and, in general, the cyclists also announced their passing and also acknowledged me. That’s nice.

Now to enjoy some of the xmas trappings that I had to avoid on Xmas day; bring on the wine and beer!

Second Annual Boxing Day Double Half-Marathon: Part 2

Well, it is done. It hurt. It was cold. My feet are sore. I can’t lift my left leg higher than horizontal. But it is done.

13.1 miles with a pace of 9:03 which is again faster than last year’s second run (9:09 pace). It is very tough to get your legs moving for the second half after they’ve had 5 hours to seize up. Starting out on a half-marathon with your legs and calves already aching is an odd sensation and you have to question your sanity.

I ran my favourite trail from Oaks through Collegeville and up into the wilds. It is a beautiful run alongside a river most of the way on a secluded trail that runs behind a number of big pharma company offices. This is one thing that kept me going. I had to do three thirty second walks once I hit the ten mile mark as the pads of my feet (around the ball of my feet) were sore from the rough surface of the trail.

Now I’ll take a couple of days off and then start to prepare for the next half which is on New Year’s Eve…

Here are the screenshots from the new version of mapmyrun (which works well).

20131226-182251.jpg

20131226-182309.jpgAnother year’s stupidity done and dusted.

Second Annual Boxing Day Double Half-Marathon: Part 1

Today is the day that I attempt the crazy double half-marathon which is something that I did for the first time last year and want to make a tradition, although I have no idea why. It involves running one in the morning and one in the afternoon. I started a little later than I would have liked this morning but that did give me plenty of time to take on fuel (read as big breakfast!). I chose a route that is essentially flat. Over the 13.1 miles it varies by about 60ft, however the last 3 miles of the route are ever so slightly uphill. I managed to complete with a 7:57 pace and got back to my car just as the first flakes of snow started to fall from the sky. Last year I did it in 8:01 pace so that is a slight improvement. I seem to recall that it was snowing last year for my run in the morning too. I took water, clif shot blocks (x3) and a clif bar (that I consumed at the finish line).

I ran in my new Sugoi sub-zero tights (thanks to the missis) which worked well and don’t appear to have rubbed me anywhere. It is always risky using new gear on a long run but with temps at 25F (14F feel) I thought it worth the risk.

Now I have to keep my legs loose so that I can run another one this afternoon. And eat a big lunch. I’m looking forward to the run now, but during that first half I found myself counting down the miles to the finish rather than enjoying it.

Hopefully the snow outside will blow through before I have to go out this afternoon…