Tuesday, September 27, 2016

2016 Philly Spartan Sprint Race Report

Disclaimer: I was contacted by Spartan Race's Dan the PR man and given a free entry into any Spartan Race within the continental U.S. in 2016.  I was not asked to write a favorable report. All opinions herein are my own.

Well the time has come, friends.  After so many years of writing about the Spartan Race, I was finally able to get myself to one of the events and join #SpartanNation.  I participated last weekend in a Spartan Sprint, which took place at Citizens Bank Park, home of the Philadelphia Phillies baseball team.

It almost didn't happen.  I signed up for this race back in the spring when we had Saturdays completely free.  But last week Stevie got a job teaching Saturday mornings, and then we had a last minute babysitter scheduling snafu (#parentlife).  I tried tweeting at Spartan Race a few times to see if they allowed racers to switch time heats on the same day as the event, but no one ever responded.  I finally contacted a friend on Facebook who was working registration who told me running in a later heat was no problem.  Crisis averted, even if it meant I had to miss out on the competitive heat I'd signed up for at 8am.

I love that Spartan Race has an elite heat first thing in the morning, followed by a competitive heat that anyone can sign up for, followed by all the jebronies throughout the rest of the day who don't care about their time.  The race still focuses on camaraderie, much like the Tough Mudder, but unlike the Tough Mudder, a sense of competition is not lost.

So I drove over to the stadium in the afternoon and parked in the stadium lot and headed inside.  I found the start area and got in line, and after about twenty minutes of waiting, I was sent off in a group of twenty.

The course immediately sent us into the visiting team's dugout, then up a stairwell and into the visiting team's locker room where we had to do twenty pushups.  We quickly made our way up to the top of the stadium where we spent a lot of time going up and down the stairs, zigzagging through the sections, sometimes carrying heavy things like sandbags or water jugs.  I learned that Spartans love carrying heavy things.

Other obstacles included the spear throw (racers get only one shot to throw the spear into the target, which I nailed), jumping/climbing over walls of varying height, crawling under bungee cords, climbing a rope to ring a bell, box jumps, etc.

I only failed to complete two of the obstacles: Using a rope and pully to pull a heavy sand bag to the top, and the monkey bars (my hands were too slick with sweat).  If a racer chooses to skip an obstacle or cannot complete it, he has to do 30 burpees.  I also learned that Spartans love burpees.

After finishing, we all got a shirt, a banana, and a protein bar, and you could use the beer ticket at any of the concession stands to get a free large can of Coors Light.

Racers wear the same orange chips on their shoes that runners wear, and each racer gets an official time.  I ended up finishing in 50:09.

I loved this race.  If you're a Phillies fan, even a casual one like me, getting to go through the dugout and locker room and onto the warning track of the field is a pretty cool experience. Every future Phillies game I go to I will always think of the different obstacles I did all over the stadium.

Parking was free and easy.  Registration was quick and organized.  The course was challenging and fun with music being blasted on the stadium sound system and video on the jumbotron.  The shirt is comfortable and looks awesome (take note Rock n' Roll, with your hideous neon green tech shirts this year).

My only complaint is that while the course is marked to show racers where to go, there are no mile markers to give racers a sense of how far along they are.  There are so many twists and turns in the stadium that it's easy to lose track of how far you've come and how far you have to go.  I was trying to conserve energy with some of the obstacles and may have saved a little too much.  I felt I could have given even more.

I'm definitely hooked on Spartan Race now, and hope I get to do another soon.  If so, I plan to upgrade to the Super next.

Until then, AROO!

Tuesday, September 20, 2016

2016 Rock n' Roll Philadelphia Half Marathon: Race Report

I've done this race almost every year for the last 11 years (I had to skip 2014 for a wedding). It's clearly one of my go-to fall races, and I was delighted when Stevie told me she wanted to run it this year as her first ever half marathon.  I immediately volunteered to run it with her and help her through it.

Between the intense heat we had this summer, and our move, and Stevie directing a children's theater camp, she didn't train as much as she wanted to, knocking out only one eight mile long run in her training.  As for me, my last long run was the ODDyssey Half Marathon back in June.  Though I continued my runstreak by running every single day of the summer, my mileage never touched double digits.  I figured I would be ok, though, because I knew I would be running at a slower pace than I am used to for this race (and yes, I know that kind of makes me sound like a speed snob or whatever, but I can live with that).

Stevie and I dropped off Neale at 6am at a friend's place, who graciously offered to watch him such an early hour, then made the drive across the bridge into Philly and parked near Eastern State Penitentiary.  We had plenty of time to use the porta potties and drop off our gear, then went up to the top of the Art Museum steps where I ran into Lauren from Breathe Deeply and Smile and Janelle from Run With No Regrets.  Lauren is based in Baltimore and Janelle in Philly, and they both write great running blogs, so check them out.

Stevie and I started in the 27th corral (out of 30), and I had no idea we would have to wait 50 minutes just to start (I had told her maybe 20 minutes).  The speakers playing music kept cutting in and out while we waited, and so we amused ourselves by playing freeze dance while slowly shuffling forward.

When it was finally our turn to toe the starting line, the MC exclaimed "What a perfect day for a race!"  No.  No it wasn't.  Sure the temperature stayed relatively cool throughout the morning, but the humidity was off the charts, and runners were falling left and right all day as a result.  Get your shit straight, MC.

I ended up suffering from GI issues all morning, going to the bathroom no less than 6 times before/during the race.  That's the first time that's ever happened to me, so thankfully it wasn't during a goal race.

Aside from two quick bathroom breaks, Stevie ran straight through ten miles before finally taking walk breaks.  Stevie is in great shape from frequent cardio in the form of DVD workouts, but her lack of running caught up with her and her legs started to hate her in the latter miles.  I offered what encouragement I could while trying not to be obnoxious (Stevie later told me I was a great running partner).

Mile 12.5

Before long, the art museum loomed, we crested the last hill and rounded the last bend, and held hands as we crossed the finish line together.

Finish Line

If ever there was a race photo to make me part with my hard-earned money, this might be it.

Afterwards we hung out on the lawn drinking Michelob Ultra and watching Guster, a band I was obsessed with in college and haven't seen live in 16 years.  This was probably the first time I've ever been excited for the post race show at a Rock n' Roll race event.


Despite the awful humidity, I had a great morning racing with my wife and hanging out afterwards.  I was proud of Stevie for setting a goal and finishing it.  Stevie claims this was her last half marathon ever and will focus on shorter distances in the future.  Overall, it was a great bonding experience, as I'd hoped it would be, and a day I won't soon forget.

Friday, September 16, 2016

I just registered for the 2017 Boston Marathon

Registration for the 2017 Boston Marathon opened this past Monday.  As per the new process started a few years ago, the fastest marathoners (ones who beat their qualifying time by 20 minutes or more) got to register first.

The first time I registered for the Boston Marathon in 2011, the first year they implemented the changes, I had to wait to the very end to register, and then missed the cut by 59 seconds.  I was crushed.  The second time I registered, this time in 2014, I again had to wait until the final registration window, then was on edge for a week and a half, then made the cut by 53 seconds.  I was ecstatic.

This year, I managed to drop my time by two minutes while simultaneously moving up an age group, which means I'm sitting on a BQ-8:54.  This means I got to register today during the first week of registration, and will most likely get an e-mail confirming my acceptance on Monday.  For the first time, I can be pretty confident that I will get into the race.  This is a nice change of pace from the nail biters of the past.

This will most likely be my last Boston for a very long time.  I'll probably do a longer post on this at some point, but the gist is this: the process to qualify is simply too taxing on my body and mind.  I've met the challenge of qualifying three times now, and I'm happy to leave it at that.  In addition, the weekend in Boston is insanely expensive, and I'd rather spend the money on taking trips to places I've never been before.

Because it's my last Boston, I'm looking forward to making it even better than my first and going out on a high note.  Care to join me for the ride?

Thursday, September 8, 2016

The story of my favorite shoes

A few weeks out from the 2015 Boston Marathon, I decided to buy a new pair of running shoes.  So I headed to the Haddonfield Running Company and tried on several pairs, but in the end went with my old standby: the Nike Pegasus.  It's a shoe model I've been wearing for years, not so much out of brand loyalty, but more out of superstition and hey, if it ain't broke, don't try to fix it.  I'd had a lot of success in the Pegasus before and saw no reason to quit them.

I was delighted when Shawn introduced me to a pair that would require spectators wear sunglasses when I ran by.  


I wore these shoes in my first ever Boston Marathon a few weeks later, trudging through a miserably cold and rainy New England morning.  And as soon as I got home, back into the box they went.  I continued to use older models of the Pegasus for training, and would use these for racing.

I trotted them out again in October on a glorious fall day for the Rock n' Roll Half Marathon which I crushed with a PR that still stands.  And back into the box they went.

Three weeks later, out they came again for my ill fated sub 3 attempt at the Philadelphia Marathon.  It was a brutal day with emotions running high.  These shoes carried me to a PR in the marathon but failed to deliver that coveted sub 3.  And back into the box they went.

I've worn them for a few more races this past spring, and will probably wear them for next weekend's Rock n' Roll Half Marathon with Stevie, but pretty soon I'll have to retire them as a racing shoe and relegate them to training duties.  

My first Boston.  Two incredible PR's in the span of three weeks.  Over a year of racing memories.  If I weren't so frugal, I would probably put these in a class case.  If ever there was a pair of shoes to enshrine forever out of all those I've worn over the years, these are it.  For now they have their spot on a shelf in my closet.

Incredibly enough, I haven't bought a new pair of running shoes since then.  But when I go see Shawn again, I just hope they have something that can live up to this pair.

Monday, September 5, 2016

New digs

So here's the big news of the summer: one of the reasons I haven't raced much or written much is because we moved in July.

We'd been living in Collingswood for several years, first in the apartment above the fire extinguisher shop, and then in the duplex across town, but when we finally decided to buy our own place, nothing in town was in our price range.  So moving out of town it is.  Unfortunately this means I can no longer ride my bike to school.  I can't really bike or walk at all anymore to do simple errands, which leaves me kind of heartbroken.  I also have to chart out all new running routes through unfamiliar terrain.

Buying a house and moving were... not fun.  The process was long and complicated and sucked all the joy and money out of the summer (all the heatwaves we experienced didn't help either).  Moving with a two-year-old in tow hell bent on destroying everything we own (including one of my prized beer glasses) made it all the more challenging.

But a new school year signals new beginnings.  I'm leading a series of teacher inservice workshops for the first time this year.  I'm helping Stevie run her first half marathon in a few weeks.  I'm looking forward to exploring our new surroundings on foot.  And pretty soon it'll be time to sign up for my second Boston Marathon.

As always, thanks for sticking with me, folks.  Till next time...
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