Tag Archives: marathon

First Day 2019; Run and Summary of Last Year

Yet again we failed to stay up until midnight on New Year’s Eve and I found myself in bed by 11:15.

But that did mean that I managed to get out of the door nice and early one the 1st January. Just three and a half miles, but that’s a start for the year. It was also surprisingly warm and windy at 57F; phew, what a scorcher!

My running stats for last year are pretty poor as I had a few confounding factors.

Firstly, last February I broke my hand playing with the kids and was unable to run for about eight weeks. Whenever I ran I could feel the bone in my hand moving up and down and just decided that I should let it heal. That also got me out of running in some very cold weather so “hurrah” for that. 🙂

I ran one marathon in June in just under 4 hours. This is good. Normally I try to run two to three a year so it was a low year. But I did keep myself at marathon level throughout September and October and run 23 or 24 mile distances a few times.

Overall, I ran about 870 miles over the year which is way below my normal levels. Hopefully, this year doesn’t have as much downtime.


Apple Watch 4 and Nike+ Running Club; the Perfect Running Partners?

It has been a long time since I have updated this blog. I took some time off writing after a candidate I interviewed at work started talking about stuff he’d read on my blog. That weirded me out a bit, but I think I’m over it now.

So, time to catch up on all the stuff I’ve been doing!

I’ve kept my running at close to marathon distance for most of this year, with my long runs clocking in around 18-24 miles. I’ve recently relaxed a bit for the holidays, but plan to start cranking up the miles again in January.

Gear-wise I’ve upgraded a few bits and pieces: I now use the Apple Watch 4 with cellular service for all but my longest runs (15+ miles). I could probably use it for those really long runs, but sometimes find myself in unfamiliar places where I need to access a map so that I can get home. In those cases, having the phone screen is vital.

However, the rest of the time the latest iteration of Apple’s watch works really well. The latest version of iOS (12) introduced the podcast app to the watch and that is the main content I consume from my devices. This has meant that I have been able to purely use the watch on its own far more.

The Bluetooth connection to my steadfast Plantronics BB Fit headphones has been rock solid the whole time. Gone are the days of flaky Bluetooth connections and having to constantly reconnect the devices. What a relief! It is very rare that I experience any technical issues at all.

I also have some Apple AirPod headphones which I use occasionally while running. They stay in well but are not waterproof. Given how much I sweat, how often I’m out in the rain and how expensive they are, I tend not to take the risk of using them.

The version of the Apple Watch that I have also has the Nike+ integration. I don’t know how this differs from other apple watches as I’ve never had the other models, but for this version, the Nike+ app is handily integrated into many of the watch faces. This makes it a breeze to start up an open run and also to take advantage of some of their other features.

My favorite features include the many different flavors of coached training runs, often with various famous runners. These will take you on speed runs, recovery runs and even some long runs. The structure tends to be a running program with light interviewing of the ‘star’ runners built into the script. It feels good to hear from the athletes themselves; their motivations, problems, and methods all make interesting listening. The coaches are also pretty good and will make your harder training sessions fly by.

Nike have done a lot of work on the Nike+ running club app and it is a very solid platform now. Most of the niggles I had with earlier versions have been addressed at this point, although it still doesn’t allow you to setup interval training programs, but you can’t have everything.

Their shoe tracking tool has also become better allowing you to more easily track the wear you put on each run, along with other details of each run like where you run, how you feel and any other things you’d like to note down. The phone app even has integration for tweeting photos of your run and adding various frames or data to decorate the images.

Me at the finish of a personal marathon earlier this year @ Valley Forge.

All-in-all, the integration of these platforms seems to have come a long way since I started using it about two years ago (gosh, is it really that long ago? How time flies!).

As I start to build up my training again, I’ll be sure to update this site with things that I find.

The Perkiomen River Trail, mid-run.

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.

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.

Recovery Catch-up

After taking it *slightly* easy for the last couple of weeks, I decided to knuckle down and do another marathon this weekend.

I hadn’t, however, reckoned on there being ridiculously strong winds in our area and a temperature drop back down into the 20s!

The British word “Bugger” seems most appropriate.

However, once I’d mentally committed to the distance I saw no reason to bail and went ahead with the run.

Again I pointed my feet in the general direction of Skippack, PA., and just kept on trucking. The wind was terrible for the first fifteen or so miles. At times it was like leaning against a wall. I was continually buffeted hither and thither as I tried to make slow progress along the road. The temperature drop meant that the chill really bit as the wind wound up. Brrr!

I decided I would take a slightly longer route back to my home as that particular trail was more shielded from the wind. This would mean that I would have to walk a little at the end of the marathon to actually reach my front door and, perhaps most annoyingly, the last two miles would all be uphill. The uphill part is inevitable to get home, but saving it all for the last two miles rather than spreading it across the last seven was a pity – however, needs must and the wind had to be avoided.

The last 14 miles of the run were all on the Perkiomen Trail from Schwenksville down to Oaks. Very pretty and somewhat protected from the wind. 

I completed the 26.22 miles in just a shade under four hours which shows how much of an impact the wind actually had on my performance. The walk home was a just over half a mile which was actually quite a nice way to let my legs relax a little. 

For snacks I had a bottle of Gatorade cut with 50% water, a Clif chocolate mint bar and a six pack of shot blocks. Just about enough to survive the distance.

Of course, once I got home I got an email from my running buddy requesting that we increase the length of our Monday morning run to seven miles. What doesn’t kill you makes you stronger so I agreed… And it wasn’t tooooooo bad. Although, I did ask that we didn’t do any fartleks as my legs just wouldn’t have managed that.

Given that March has now past I checked my numbers for the month & year… 170 miles for March (pretty darn good) and 411 for the year to date. Now to eat my body weight in mini-eggs…

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!

Medium Distance Run (Slacking)

After a long week of relatively short runs, and a hectic party schedule, I was a little more than reluctant to hit the streets this morning.

My son woke me at 5:30 and so we just hung out until the others woke up, then I sneaked off back to bed for a crafty catch up sleep.

Once I eventually got up at nine, I sat under a blanket and just enjoyed being lazy. This is very unlike me but felt great…

Then at 10:30 I just got up and went out. I managed a relatively slow 9 miles at a recovery pace of around 8:30. I think, strictly speaking, my training schedule called for fifteen miles, but it felt like my legs haven’t recovered from the last marathon yet, so I eased off.

It was crazily warm today. 65F when I went out of run. I sweated off 3.5 pounds. This is nuts for December! Normally it would be in the 20s. It has been like this for most of the week, too.

It was announced this week that the official marathon photos were available online and were free; this was a nice surprise. In a couple of them I look like I was about to keel over, but there were a few good ones.

The first of this set looks pretty good. The ear warmers look a bit dorky but they are so nice when it is cold out. I normally take them off after a couple of miles and just clip them around my arm. Very handy.

I also reached the end of life (400 miles) on one of my pairs of Brooks Glycerine 13s but have a new (cheap) pair of Glycerine 12s waiting in the wings thanks to some foresight with the Black Friday sales. The wear pattern shows a slight heal drag but they are generally quite evenly worn. This is in keeping with my neutral shoes and foot strike. I did start to find that I was beginning to feel the road through the soles by the end of their life, so I’m looking forward to the new pair.

Strictly speaking this week should be the start of my two week taper to the next marathon; my traditional and unofficial Boxing Day marathon. We’ll see how that goes… If anyone wants to run part of it with me they are more than welcome to come along… 🙂

Marathon Summary: Rehoboth Beach, DE. 

It is done and I am working through the aftermath of aches and pains, albeit only slight aches. 

So, I should return to the start and regale you with the full marathon story…

Friday I took the day off from work and started with a leisurely diner breakfast with the family, came home and packed all I would need for the trip. At one p, I hit the road to DE which was about a two and a half hour ride. Basically, a straight-line road trip that was dull and uneventful.

Upon arrival, the first thing to do was to get the race packet. This event was well organized and quite busy. Parking is plentiful and free at this time of year in Rehoboth Beach, so getting a space near the packet pickup was easy.

The packet contained very little of interest: a few race flyers, some freeze rub and, of course, the race t-shirt. 

Next stop the hotel and the staff allowed me to have an extended checkout for race day. Result! Nothing worse than hanging around in sweaty clothing with no shower available. The room had a side view across the beach in Dewey, DE. Quite pretty.

Then I unpacked all my race garb to make sure that I hadn’t left anything behind and laid it all out ready for the morning. Everything was present and correct.  

 After nipping out for a quick pizza I decided to hit the hay early at 7:30 after putting my devices on charge. Sometimes I’ve had issues with not being able to sleep the night before a big event so I wanted to maximize my chance to get some shut eye… However, it wasn’t a problem this time. I slept right through until 5:30 when my alarm went off. 

Parking for the race was very simple. Again, there are lots of free parking spaces there right near the start line. This meant I only had to brave the cold sea breeze for about 15 minutes before the race started. After a slow rendition of the national anthem, it was go-time. 

 Sunrise at the beach.

  Everyone is ready to go.
I started a little way back in the pack as I generally do. It allows me to feel like I’m fast as I overtake people in the first few miles and gets my legs turning over quickly.

I had some issues getting mapmyrun to start via my watch. My fingers were too cold for it too sense them, I suspect. I managed to get it started a couple of hundred yards after the start. The first few miles twist around the town and steer you out towards the Henlopen State park. Interestingly, they have the marathon and half marathon split around the four mile mark, sending us marathoners out into the wilds. The turn around point was at mile ten and was quite breezy.

The park was very pretty and nearly entirely flat.when we passed the thirteen mile mark I realized that my gps was entirely out of sync with the distance. It was well over half a mile off by this time. This was a concern.

The little voice from my phone had been telling me my pace was 7:30… Then it had dropped down to  7:25… 7:22… And eventually reached 7:15! I thought this was buying me extra time for later, but I guess it was because the distance measurement was so far off. This meant that I didn’t really know how I was doing.

Some slow mental arithmetic over the next few miles allowed me to work out what my time should be at the various mile markers, however, I didn’t know the exact time that I crossed the start line so it was going to guesswork to some extent.

At mile 18 I started to feel tired and eased up a little, figuring I had a little bandwidth. At mile 19.5 I was overtaken for the first time in the race and didn’t manage to retake them. A clear sign I was slowing a little.

At mile 23 I stayed to feel the beginnings of cramps in my thighs, so I waked for a 30 seconds. I had to do this three times. With two miles to go I figured I had sixteen minutes spare… Perfect for an eight minute mile pace.

I tried to pick it up a little but I couldn’t make much more headway… Finally I crossed the line with my gps saying 26.87 miles, despite starting it late.

After grabbing water, medal and a warm wrap I headed over to the official timing tent. 

 3:25:08. My BQ would have been 3:25:00… Well, except that you have to really beat it by a couple of minutes these days to actually still qualify. 

I missed by eight seconds… But this is still 13+ minutes faster than my previous personal best. Sweet. 

 I’m not sure why the camera inverted the picture for the selfie… Something funky going on there. You see all that salt… I certainly worked hard during the run.
Now I’m recovering at home after a long and enjoyable post-race party hanging out with a crazy bunch of marathon maniacs, some who did more than 30 marathons this year. Crazy.

Bailed on Marathon

I’ve posted no updates this week because I was planning to run a marathon today and was tapering… However, at mile 20 I’ve decided to bail. 

Cramps in my calf and dizziness when I stopped to tie a lace stopped me going any further. 

I feel like a bit of a failure but I guess I’ll just call it a 20mile training run and do the marathon attempt again in a couple of weeks. 

I hadn’t been following a plan and last weekend I did run 18 miles so I guess I was pushing it a little. 

The run was pretty good as I had planned it to hit several water stops and my car so I could refuel regularly. 

I ate well with sports beans, 2 packs of clif shot blocks and two clif bars. 

I drank three 20oz bottles of water and was helped by a friendly cyclist who gave me a bottle of Gatorade at mile 14.5. What a gent! He saw that the water fountain I was trying to fill at wasn’t functioning so he offered me his spare bottle. His shirt said “RoadDawgs” and they are a team I have drafted on the MS City to Shore ride before so a big “THANKS” to the anonymous rider. 

I was plagued with technical problems today. 

I forgot to charge my phone last night so had to delay my start by and hour to pick up some energy. Then my Bluetooth headphones refused to stay connected to my phone. Every 20 seconds they would disconnect. I tried everything to get them to work properly and ended up abandoning them at my car at mile 19. This is the second time that has happened with these headphones so I may have to return them. I seem to have no luck with Bluetooth tech and it is not like I’m hard on the equipment; I always keep them in their pouch. 

There were many cyclists out today and very few announced they were passing. Thanks to the four that did! 

The promised storm that I was hoping for never materialised so I ended up running in 75F temps with high humidity the whole time. Stupid weather. 

Anyway, I enjoyed the run despite giving up. I think it was a sensible decision to make given that I was heading out into the wilderness when I started to feel faint. 

The walk back to my car was relaxing and allowed me to write this article. 

Now to get some food, stretch and roll my muscles out. 

Chester Valley Trail: The Outdoor Equivalent of a Treadmill

Firstly, let me start by sending a massive congratulations and thanks to the people that look after the Chester Valley Trail. For, in a time with continuous sub-freezing temperatures and five snowstorms in the last week, their trail is completely clear. No snow. No ice. No slippery places towards the edges. No melt water patches. Nothing. Amazing.

If you are looking for somewhere clear to run outside in these winter conditions, there is probably no better choice than this trail. Big props!

But, boy, is it a boring trail. It runs parallel with the PA route 202 and is constantly within ear shot of the traffic, so run with headphones if you want some escapism.

The 5.5 miles out and back that I ran was straight as a straight could be. Here’s the GPS to prove it:

2015/02/img_4247.pngIsn’t that crazy? The outdoor, real-world equivalent of a treadmill session as there is nothing interesting to see.

The road weaves away a little and the later end of the path is through corporate office parks but the omnipresent hum of rolling traffic haunts the trail even early on a Sunday morning.

My run started at Old Eagle School road and went almost all the way to Wegman’s in Malvern. This was the base site for my recent Boxing Day marathon and means that if you were so inclined, you could run almost exactly a marathon along the length from start to end. By my rough calculations it is 13 miles out and back.

One enjoyable thing today was that EVERY runner that I passed today said ‘hello’ unlike the people in England last week. And I passed about forty runners during my 11 mile run today. Well done, American Runners.

The temperature was a fine 20F with no breeze and I slightly over dressed. Eventually I was running with my jacket tied around my waist.

Eleven miles in 1 hour 28 gives a 7:59 pace. My legs feel slow at the moment and I think it is because I am not eating properly or hydrating. I shall attempt to address that this week.

January is done and I ran somewhere over 100 miles which isn’t too shabby given the temps and conditions.