It’s hard to believe it’s been over a month since my last post. I’ve had so many things to write about, and seemingly so little time to write. September was a very busy month for me and I’ll go through training/racing aspects of that in the next several paragraphs. Most days, I trained, worked and trained some more. Then I’d sleep. There weren’t many days in September where I was awake after 9 PM. Now, I find myself with more than enough time to write and energy to write at night. But, I’m getting ahead of myself here.
September 7 – The Bird In Hand Half Marathon
The first weekend of September kicked off with the BIrd In Hand Half. It was certainly more than just another half marathon. The festivities kick off with a balloon launch and 5K run Friday night. We had good Red Felt Running CLub representation there (including Elvis).
After the 5K there was a bon fire that featured an appearance by Bart Yasso. Of course, I went home to go to sleep before Bart spoke. BTW – I ran a 22:58 5K, only 4 seconds off my PR.
Saturday morning brought perfect conditions for the running of the half marathon. The race followed the same route as it did last year through the picturesque farmland of Lancaster County. For a description of the race, read last years Race Recap. Once again, we had a strong group of Red Felters running the half. Here’s everybody after the fact:
Given the perfect conditions, I decided to push myself. I tried to stay at a hard sustainable effort. As the miles passed, I continued to feel good, so I continued to push. When it was all said and done, I had finished in 1:46:50 – a PR by more than 5 minutes and over 15 minutes than I ran this race last year.
Just to add to the excitement of the weekend, for me and a few of my friends who ran the Garden Spot Village Marathon (or half) last spring, we qualified for the Road Apple award. It’s a very unique award that may seem odd in other parts of the country, but is perfect here.
Me & Neeli after picking up my Road Apple award
September 8 – R U Able Duathlon
Wanting to keep up with my new found obsession with triathlons, I entered a Duathlon the day after Bird In Hand. The R U Able duathlon is a sprint distance event consisting of a 5K run, a 15 mile bike and another 5 K run.
The duathlon is run by the IM Able foundation, an organization that supports and promotes an active lifestyle for people with disabilities. Before the start of the race, they presented two individuals who had recently become disabled with a handcycle and adapted recumbent bicycle respectively, to allow them to continue their active lives. It was a very moving moment and made my feel very thankful for the health I’ve been blessed with.
The race gave me an opportunity to practice my transitions and the chance to test out my new triathlon bike. Fresh off a hard half marathon the day before, I took it relatively easy on the out and back 5K. Having arrived early, I had a good spot in the transition area and got through T1 in 41 seconds.
The bike ride started off well. The course was a fairly flat 2.5 mile loop that we circled 6 times. Since it was closed to traffic, I settled into my aero bars and focused on the riders in front of me. Everything was going great until lap 2 when I reached for my water bottle. I took a drink and, when trying to return it to its cage, dropped the bottle.
For a moment, I thought about just riding on. Then, I remembered the warnings from triathlon sites about not leaving anything on the course. I jammed on my brakes and a volunteer ran over to get my bottle for me. After what seemed like an hour but was probably 30 seconds, I had my bottle and was back on my way. Annoyed at myself, I learned a lesson for future tri’s – hydration kit in front of me.
Despite the hold up, I put in a strong time for the ride (18 best – 19.1 MPH). My T2 was a bit slower at 56 seconds, but still not too bad. As I headed out for the second 5K my legs were a little rubbery, but I felt like I could beat my first 5K time.
The first quarter mile of the 5K is a gentle downhill. Just enough to allow you to ease into a rhythm for the second run. By the time I reached the bottom of the hill, my legs felt good and my breathing was settled. I managed to push my pace and beat my first 5K time by 27 seconds.
Overall, I finished 22nd out of approximately 70 competitors. Judging by the finishing times in front of me, my water bottle drop cost me 2 or 3 spots.
September 15 – Marshman Triathlon
The Marshman Triathlon was my second triathlon, but my first with an open water swim and my first swimming in a wetsuit. It was also chalk full of serious competitors as it is part of the Mid Atlantic Multi-Sport series.
Swim – When I arrived at the course, the air temperature was a balmy 41 degrees. Getting into the wetsuit brought relieve from the cold air, but not the wet, cold ground. The worst part of the entire event was the walk from the transition area to the swim start. Cold, wet grass, followed by cold hard pavement. Brrrr.
Getting into the water was a pleasure. It was probably in the low sixties and quickly warmed my feet. When my wave started, everything went smoothly. I find a nice space in the middle of the pack and was swimming at a comfortable pace. As I approach the first turn buoy, all was well.
As I began to turn around the buoy, all hell broke loose. People in front of me stopped. I swam into them. People behind me swam into me. People were churning in the water, thrashing around. Anything but swimming. By the time order returned, I was completely out of breath. I switched to breast stroke to catch my breath, but it came back much more slowly than I was used to. For the rest of the swim, I alternated between free and breast every 30 strokes, give or take. I was thrilled when I was able to get out of the water.
Bike - As I exited the water, I was able to quickly start peeling off my wetsuit. Until it got caught on my watch, that is. Then it got caught on my timing chip. Ugh. More lessons learned. I decided to take the time to put on socks, arm warmers and a head band since it was still only 45 degrees. It took time, but it was well worth it.
The bike course had three good climbs with long stretches of rollers in between. The first climb was right out of the transition area. It actually helped warm me up in the cold air. I could feel the cold as I headed down the other side of the hill, but the extra gear I put on did it’s job.
The course was not closed to traffic, but very few cars were on the course as we rode. I felt comfortable moving out to pass people. Given that, after a slow swim and a worse T1, I was well behind a lot of people in my wave, I had lots of people to pass.
Run - As I finished the bike and headed to T2, I got stuck behind someone who decided to walk their bike back to the rack. I didn’t really have room to pass them, so I patiently growled under my breath until I got past them. My T2 was a little better, but the cold had me fumbling pulling on my shoes. I was happy to be able to get out and run.
The run was a 2 mile out and back – one mile uphill and one mile downhill. I tried to take short, choppy steps as I started to get my legs ready to run. Another thing that I didn’t anticipate was that the run was mostly on a gravel and dirt path. Had I known that, I would have worn shoes that didn’t have spaces in the sole where rocks can wedge.
Going up the hill, I caught a lot more people. Having to run hills all the time in training is a pain, but it pays off during races. I always feel like I’m stronger when others start to tire. As I made the turn at the top and headed back down, I let my stride stretch out and gained more ground on the people in front of me. My run was my strongest leg, averaging a 7:40 pace and finishing 95th.
Overall, I finished 188 out of 400 finishers. Not bad, but I know I eft a lot of time out on the course.
September 21 – Back On My Feet 20 In 24
The 20 in 24 is an ultra marathon race run in Fairmount Park, Philadelphia. There are several formats and events within the race, but everything is run on a 8.5 mile route through the park. My friend Kathy was running the Lone Ranger Challenge for either 50 or 75 miles and I was going to pace her for a lap or two of the race.
By early afternoon, Kathy let me know that she was going to run 50, which meant that I was only going to run one lap with her. Since I was supposed to get a 20 mile run in and knowing I’d only run 8.5 with Kathy, I decided to do a 30/3 brick workout to make up the difference.
By the time I got down to the course and found Kathy’s tent, I could see she was not at 100%. The day got warmer than anticipated and Kathy was dealing with blisters. I hadn’t realized it, but Kathy tried to catch me before I headed to Philly to tell me not to bother. But, there I was, ready to run. The trooper that she is, she picked herself up, loosened back up and headed out for a lap.
Before we started to run, I checked the weather. According to weather.com, we had a good three hours before any rain was supposed to arrive. Before we got a mile out, the rain started coming down lightly. No worry, we caught each other up on what was going on in our lives as we ran along. A few more miles in and the rain started to come down harder. Fortunately, it was warm rain, but I’m sure that Kathy, having already run close to 30 miles and dealing with blisters, had reached her limit.
For the last mile, Kathy actually picked up the pace and finished strong. Drenched, sore and exhausted, she called it a night at that point, having run 34 miles. 8 miles more than I have ever run. For me, it was fun to be a part of the event. It was fun to help a friend.
September 28 – Multiple Sclerosis City to Shore Ride
Earlier this year, I got some shocking news. I was reading through a draft section of a book my friend is writing and learned that he has MS. I was shocked because, fortunately, he is not outwardly showing any ill effect. Still, knowing how debilitating MS can be, I wanted to do this ride in honor of my friend.
Two days before the ride, I got another shock. Another friends 9 year old son Tommy was in an accident and had passed away. This was a friend who I was supposed to ride the MS ride with. When I saw him Friday night, he asked that I think of Tommy as I rode. And that, I did:
Riding 100 miles for Tommy
I was riding as part of a group from work. There was a total of 45 doing the ride, but 4 of us rode together and were keeping a good pace. We stopped at the mile 31 rest stop and met up with a couple more people. We were getting a good pace line together.
The course runs from Cherry Hill NJ to Ocean City NJ. There is a 75 mile course with an option to take an extra loop to my it a full 100 miles. Being New Jersey, it is very flat, but the wind started to pick up along the course of the day.
The day was going really well. We were just a few miles away from our last rest stop before we rode the final 13 miles into Ocean City. We were cruising along on a flat, straight strip of road when it happened.
I couldn’t see everything that happened. All I know is I saw the bike in front of me roll hard in one direction, then back the other way. Then, it was on its side, sliding in front of me. I had nowhere to go, no way to stop. I remember hitting the bike, then being airborne, rolling forward.
The next thing I remember was a very hard strike on the ground. On my right shoulder. My bike popped off my feet and disappeared. All of the air came out of me and I started to groan. I wasn’t trying to. I didn’t want to. The sound just came out of me.
As I lay on the ground, I began to take inventory. I was awake – that’s good. I was in a lot of pain – that’s bad. There was blood all over my leg, but I could more both legs without any pain. As other riders quickly came to my aid, I realized that my shoulder was my main problem. Paramedics quickly arrived and, after confirming that I didn’t suffer a brain or spinal injury, they got me into an ambulance and off to the hospital.
As September leaves and October arrives, I find myself with a metal plate holding my right collarbone together wondering when I’ll be able to train and race again. After thoroughly beating myself up for getting into a pace line for no good reason, for failing to complete my ride for my friend and for Tommy, for screwing up my MCM, I’ve decided to put September in the past, be thankful for what I have and take whatever October is willing to give me.