Tuesday, May 31, 2016

May mileage

January: 59
February: 70
March: 73
April: 78


87 miles for the month of May.  Let's keep this upward trend moving in the right direction as we head into summer, eh?

Wednesday, May 25, 2016

Stevie's first half marathon

I normally run the Rock 'n' Roll Half Marathon every fall in Philadelphia.  I've done it almost every year for the last decade (unfortunately breaking the streak in 2014 when I had a wedding to attend in Pittsburgh that same weekend).  So the fact that I'm already signed up for the 2016 race this September isn't exactly newsworthy.

What makes it exciting is that my wife Stevie decided to sign up as well.  This will be her first ever half marathon.

Stevie has always enjoyed running, and a few years ago even began bumping up her mileage for no particular reason other than to challenge herself.  She made it up to 11 miles before pregnancy and winter both derailed her, and hasn't gone long since.  Stevie has transformed her body in the last year by doing DVD workouts through Beach Body, and she's completed a few 5k's in that time, sometimes with Neale in the stroller and sometimes without.  So she's been toying with the idea of completing a half for a long time, and has finally gone ahead and signed up.

I won't be running the race at my pace, but instead will stick by Stevie's side to pace her and offer encouragement (2:45 is her anticipated finish time).  I'm a little bit nervous about doing so for 13.1 miles, because there is a fine line between offering encouragement and just being annoying.  It's sometimes hard to gauge in the moment what the runner needs.  Something we'll have to work on and talk about this summer, I guess.

I'm excited to experience this race from a different angle, and I'm excited to share this world of distance running with Stevie.  September 18th here we come!

Sunday, May 22, 2016

Why I won't be running the Wild Half again next year

When I finished the Wild Half last weekend, I was pretty surprised to see the clock on 1:33 as I crossed the finish line, seeing as I had gone into the race expecting to run about 1:45.  I hadn't worn a watch for this race, and knew I had significantly picked up the pace towards the end, so I just shrugged it off and went to look for beer.

It wasn't until I met up with friends shortly afterwards that I started to hear the course had been short.  Almost everyone I talked to told me they had the course marked at about 12.6, a full half mile short.  

Ah, so that explains it.

People were already questioning the course's length on the Wild Half Facebook page that afternoon.  Someone then posted this screenshot of a private message from the Wild Half, explaining that the course was indeed short and was due to last minute construction issues.

The next day, however, the race completely changed course and sent out an e-mail to all participants, claiming the course had been 13.1 miles all along, and made no mention of the above Facebook message.

"While this was a USATF sanctioned event, it was not a USATF certified course but our team has been actively reviewing course maps and calculations to ensure the course measured 13.1 miles... In addition, the course was also measured using an odometer with a reading of 13.18 miles."

In the comments on the Wild Half Facebook page, some compared Strava results to the posted course map in what became, in my mind, the most plausible explanation: the course had indeed been 13.1, but we had missed an approximate half mile detour off of the otherwise straight course.  Either this small detour had not been marked, or race volunteers had not directed us properly.

To the race's credit, in the original e-mail they claimed to be continuing the investigation and would follow up later in the week.  The next day, participants received a second e-mail from the race, finally acknowledging the short course and offering entry into next year's race for just $50.

But there was still no mention of the original message from the race's Facebook page.  And something about the language used in this e-mail bothered me as well.

"...there was confusion about the race turnaround point with several athletes, including our pacers, turning around at the last aid station and prior to the base of the Stone Harbor Bridge (the intended and published turnaround point)."

First, it made it sound like there was only a portion of the race field that turned around early, because we were just too dumb to follow the course properly, and the rest followed the true course. While I can't be completely sure, I'm willing to bet not a single person continued to the intended turnaround point.  This language also shifts part of the blame onto the participants, making it sound like the turnaround point had been properly marked and, again, some of us just missed it.

There is no way that section of the race could have been anything other than a turnaround point.  Plain and simple. 

Then Runner's World got ahold of the story and published an article about it.

They continue the blame shift with this line:

"Compounding the problem, an unknown number of runners mistook an aid station for the turnaround point just ahead..."

Not an unknown number.  All of them.  And we did not mistake anything.  We are not to blame in this mess.

I really did have a good time last weekend.  The course was beautiful, the participants friendly and enthusiastic, the weather perfect (minus the wind), and the post race party a lot of fun. But this is first and foremost a race, and one of the most important things in putting on a race is to get the course right.

Yes, mistakes happen, and yes, I appreciate the steep discount for next year.  But I will not be back.  As a husband and a father, my race choices these days are severely limited by lack of time and money.  I simply will not tolerate the gross ineptitude and dishonesty shown by race leadership this week, and in the future will choose to spend my money elsewhere.

Monday, May 16, 2016

2016 Wildwood Half Marathon Race Recap

Wildwood, NJ

This was a race that has been on my radar for a few years, and I finally got the chance to run it yesterday morning.

I had planned to sleep in my car Saturday night, but when Tom from my running group heard I was racing as well, he let me know he had an extra room in his beach house and invited me to stay with him.  His entire family was coming down for the weekend, and several more runner friends came over Saturday night for beer, wine and pasta.

We were up on race morning at 5:30, and I made the short drive over to the starting area at 6:30 for a 7:30 start.  The sun had just come up, and it was a beautiful morning for a race.

Starting line at 7am

Parking cost me $5, but I was able to park about twenty feet from the start/finish, which is an amazing feat for a mid-sized race.  It also meant that I didn't have to worry about a bag check.

Also notable was the fact that a half hour before the race, there were still no lines for the porta potties:

If ever there was a case for doing smaller races, that's it right there.

The race had pacers starting at 7 minutes per mile and going all the way up to 11 or 12, and I placed myself next to the 8 minute pacer.  I hadn't really trained much for this, hadn't gone above 7 miles since last November, so I really had no idea how I would fare.  As is usually the case with non-goal races, my only goal was to enjoy the scenery and atmosphere and get in a decent run.  I thought 1:45 might be a reasonable guess as to my fitness level, so I went with that.

We started promptly at 7:30, and quickly ran onto the boardwalk for the first mile or so of the race.  The rest of the course went along the ocean and then out into the bay area, crossing a few bridges in the process.  The wind was fierce, the most intense I've ever experienced in a race, even worse than Philly last fall.  I usually count on at least a little wind when running down the shore, and as I said I wasn't going for a PR, so the wind didn't bother me too much.

At about mile 2; can you spot me in this picture?

I ran the first half of the race conservatively, not wanting to go out too hard in the beginning and completely bomb in the end.  I was feeling remarkably good in the second half of the race, so I started picking up the pace a bit, ultimately cartwheeling across the finish line in 1:33:18, which I thought might make a fun finisher's photo, but backfired as it resulted in a pretty epic crotch shot:

The after party was pretty sweet; there was plenty of food for participants, as well as free beer from the Cape May Brewing Company and several food trucks and a live band.

Tom and his wife Becky, my hosts for the night in Wildwood.

After hanging out for awhile, I took a picture of the medal, got a slice of boardwalk pizza to cap off the morning, then made the drive back to the other side of Jersey.

So, would I recommend this race to any other runners in the New Jersey/Philadelphia area? It turns out that's a loaded question.

Yes, I had a great time hanging out with friends, eating, drinking and of course running, and the race itself was fun and well-organized, but it also turns out the course may have been short by as much as a half mile.  I'll address this in my next post, but I can say now I'm afraid this error might be enough to keep me away from any future editions of this race.

Update: Here's the follow-up post on the fall out from the mis-measured course:

Why I won't be running the Wild Half again next year

Wednesday, May 4, 2016

Ryan Hall wants you to know he can totally kick your ass now

REDDING, CALIFORNIA - Retired U.S. marathoner and newly buff Ryan Hall was recently spotted strutting around a local Planet Fitness intimidating those around him, sources confirm.

"You even lift, bro?" he reportedly asked a teenager adding weights to his benchpress.  "What do you max out at, bro?  Not gonna lie, I'm at like 300 now."

Hall then removed his shirt and began flexing in the mirror, daring anyone within earshot to come at him.

As the day wore on, Hall showed no sign of relenting.  When a high school cross country team showed up, he began calling them candyasses and telling them to choose a real sport as he ripped a telephone book in two.

"Gosh, Ryan Hall turned into a real douche," said computer programmer Randy Radzminski, who was warming up on the elliptical at the time.  He quickly added, "Please don't tell him I said that."

A manager was finally called over to talk to Hall, at which point witnesses report Hall yelling something about GTL.

At press time, Hall was still in the gym, grunting loudly at his reflection in the mirror while curling free weights and muttering about protein shakes.
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