New Jersey Marathon- ’15

This past Sunday, my wife Caryn and I ran the New Jersey 1/2 and full marathons respectively. Our running friend Sheri also ran the full marathon. I had to work on Saturday, so both Caryn and Sheri drove to Long Branch Saturday afternoon to the expo to gather our good bags, including our bib numbers. I took the 3 hour trip via Interstate 78 after work. I arrived at the hotel at about 8pm. My wife was nice enough to have a spaghetti with meatballs dinner ready for me when I arrived. I typically have pasta before a distance race. We all fueled up and discussed running tactics for the upcoming race and went to bed pretty early.

We woke to a nice, sunny morning. The hotel we were staying at was about 8 miles from the start, which was at Monmouth Park, a popular horse racetrack on the east coast. We were concerned about getting to the start at a decent time. The drive in was on a single lane road. We ended up having no troubles, though, and were at the starting line 45 minutes before the start.

After some pre-race preps, “the call to the post” sound was heard for the first wave off. It took about 2 minutes for our Wave C to start. We wished each other luck and were on our way. Here we are at the start…

N.J. thon 2

My legs were screaming for a race like this. The weekend before, I had completed the Hyner Challenge 50K, which included 7,600 feet of elevation gain. The New Jersey Marathon had an elevation gain of 415 feet! I was looking forward to stretching out my legs for 26.2 miles.

It took a good 5 or so miles for me to get into a grove. My legs still were somewhat stiff from the previous week. Sheri and I run similar paces so we would run a few miles together, then would separate from each other. The morning was starting to get a bit warmer, and by mile 10, I was dipping into my first salt pack. I had forgotten my salt tablets, but thankfully Caryn was able to take some packs from the Italian restaurant they ate at the night before for me.

I normally try to drink fluids at every aid station. I skipped the first two because I hydrated well leading up to the event. I also try to rotate the type of fluids at aid stations…the first aid station water, the next aid station Gatorade, etc. I felt sodium intake was most important for me and my muscles this race so throughout, I drank more Gatorade.

By the halfway mark I was feeling good. I had a good/steady pace going. By mile 15, I started to feel as though it could get warmer and could end up being a tougher run than I wanted it to be. But that feeling passed. I continued to take a few salt packs, had a gel at my 16, and took advantage of each water station.

The course was nice. I was expecting more of an ocean view, considering we were right along the ocean. Most of the race, however, was on the back streets. Around mile 21, we were on the boardwalk, but that lasted a mile. My wife, Caryn, told me after the race, that this was one of the areas that Hurricane Sandy had hit hard in 2012. I was unaware of that while I was running and didn’t take notice that there were still some buildings that were still being rebuilt.

We ran a few more miles on back beach roads before getting back onto the boardwalk for the last mile or so. My legs were really working hard as I crossed the finish. My Garmin watch had the distance at 26.6, and I heard murmurs throughout from other runners getting the same readings. Unfortunately this type of thing happens in races. I’ve run some 50K’s where the distance would be off by more than a mile.

We all had a good time and had good runs at this marathon. Here we are at the end….

N.J. thon

Both Caryn and Sheri were looking to run faster times than what they did, but they both still did great and finished in the top 30% overall! I was pleased with the way I ran. I stayed steady throughout. I had a negative split from the first half marathon to second half marathon. That’s the type of running I enjoy most, finishing strong.

Boston Stronger- ’15

Fellow running friends were kind enough to give my wife and I the opportunity to go up to Boston for the Boston Marathon last weekend. We knew of about a dozen runners who were going to run the marathon on Monday. We decided to make the trip early Sunday morning. The day before, I had run the Hyner Challenge 50K ’15, so I was a little on the dreary side. Luckily my wife was kind enough to drive the first half of the way so I could rest up.

It was a beautiful, but windy day when we got to Natick, a small town about 20 miles outside of Boston. We met Robyn and Jeff at the hotel and took the subway in to Boston to meet up with some running friends at the Boston Expo. Here we are on the train…

Boston 2

We met Carol, who would run her 6th Boston Marathon the next day, and her husband Gary at the expo. The expo was similar to other expos I’ve been at, but had twice as much stuff. It also had Samuel Adams 26.2 Ale beer samples. We took advantage of that. We also walked around the downtown area. Gary and Carol took us down to the finish line. It really has become “hallowed ground” in the running community. They also pointed out to us where the two bombs went off two years prior. It was scary to think that Gary was literally 10 feet away from the first bomb. He described in more detail the events of that day, but I won’t get into that. Here we are at the finish line…

Boston 7

Gary and Carol also showed us the Boston Common area. Here we are with the commons in the background….

Boston 3

After a long day, Linda, Robyn, Jeff, Caryn and I went back to the Morse Tavern, a local establishment about 15 minutes from our hotel room. They have great food! We then decided to head back to the hotel. We definitely needed to rest up, for Marathon Monday was fast approaching.

The next day we woke to a cold, rainy, windy morning. This is what we, as well as all the runners, were expecting. I don’t mind running in conditions, but if I were to choose, the combination of rain and wind would be the worst to run in. The Boston Marathoners were going to have to really earn their finishers’ medals this day.

If you don’t know, the famous Boston College and pro NFL quarterback Doug Flutie’s home town is in Natick. He and his childhood friend, Alan, were planning on running in the marathon for Doug’s Flutie Foundation for Autism. His son had been diagnosed and for years, Doug has raised millions of dollars for research. Linda got to know Doug through this amazing cause.

We decided to set up in front of the Morse Tavern, since the marathon runs right past it. It would be around mile 10. Here we are in front of the tavern….

Boston 4

Just after 10am, the first of many marathoners came through…the wheelchair division. What grit and determination they had on their faces. They were really moving by us at a fast clip. Here are some of them…

Boston 6

Next to pass through were the handicapped runners. I’m in awe of their determination and their drive to complete 26.2 miles. They truly are Boston Strong..

Boston 5

It got to be about 11am and as the helicopter flew overhead, that only meant one thing. The lead elites were getting close. The lead pack of women flew by us 58 minutes into their races. Two Americans, Desi Linden and Shalane Flanagan, were in this pack. It was exciting to see….

Boston 10

About 20 minutes later, the men zipped past us. I couldn’t help but notice the form of all of these elite runners. Their bodies in unison with one another. Legs and arms running symmetrical to one another. I also noticed that their heads stayed perfectly still, while putting in so much effort. They reminded me of robots. Here is the eventual 3rd place finisher…

Boston 8

After the elites went through, the waves of runners started coming. With them came the rain and wind. Runners of all ages running by, in top form. We continually cheered for them….high fives, yelling their names that were on their bib numbers, yelling the city or country that was on their shirts, etc. It was a blast. We started seeing some of our fellow runner friends too. It really was a great time! When we got thirsty, we would go into Morse Tavern to quench our thirsts. For some reason, the liquor fireball was the drink of choice. Maybe because it warmed us up so fast.

We continued our cheering straight through until about 2pm. By mid afternoon, we had built appetites, so we decided to eat at the tavern again. With our bellies full, our arms tired from clapping, and our voices hoarse from yelling, we decided to head back to the hotel for a much-needed nap. I can’t help but laugh. We were exhausted from drinking fireballs and standing for a few hours. I wondered how the marathoners felt after running 26.2 miles in rain and driving winds?

After our naps, we drove over to Doug Flutie’s childhood friend, Alan’s house. They had a nice spread of Chinese food for all of us to eat, if we were hungry. Alan and his wife made us feel very welcome in their home. Here is my wife Caryn, Linda, and Doug just finishing our Chinese food and having a good conversation.

Boston 9

Doug is a great, down to earth type of guy. He still stays active, obviously, since he had just finished running a marathon. He also plays baseball in an over 18 league. After a great day to a very great weekend, there was time for one more photo….

Boston 1

My wife Caryn and I had a memorable time in Boston. We experienced a lot. That city is really nice. The people also seem very nice and personable. From other articles I’ve read, after the bombings at the Boston Marathon, the people and the marathon itself have gotten stronger. No one can beat the human spirit down, and Boston Strong proves that.

Hyner Challenge 50K- ’15

This past Saturday, I ran/hiked my first Hyner Challenge. I had been first told about the event a few years ago by a running buddy of mine. He said that I should do it and it would be a lot of fun. He also mentioned the good food and beer they have at the end. I originally had an Appalachian Trail run scheduled for this date, but that fell through, so I nonchalantly signed up for the Hyner 50k.

As the race grew nearer, I continued to hear about Hyner. It would be a 31 mile trek with elevation gain exceeding 7,600 feet and would be a big challenge. That’s a lot of elevation gain for around these parts and especially for me, considering climbing isn’t one of my strong points. I’d much rather run down steep terrain rather than hike up it.

The following descriptions of mountains, stream crossings, aches and pains, may not be in the correct order. It’s what I remember. And at some points, my recollection of certain things are a little more hazy than others.

Race morning was foggy. On a clear day, they said, you could look up and see Hyner View(about 3 miles from the start). All of the following pictures are from other people either from years past or later race morning. Here is the top on a clear day….

Hyner 14

We started on a road, crossing a bridge and continuing on a road for the first mile. We then entered the woods and started the climb up. Here is a picture of part of the climb…..

Hyner 1

Keep in mind, this is only part of the first climb. The first of 5 climbs….Yeah, straight up. The top is about 3-4 miles from the start. Here’s another picture approaching the top….

Hyner 2

When I reached the top, I remember thinking it just felt like I ran a half marathon. Except I wasn’t even running. It was mostly hiking. This is me cresting the top with the fog almost 2,000 feet below me……

Hyner 8

We descended most of the mountain then started to do this “dance” with a stream. The trail literally crossed over this stream about 10 different times. There was no way you could avoid getting your feet wet. Around mile 6-7, with my feet wet and my legs feeling heavy, I remember thinking this could be a very long day. I knew there were 4 more major climbs ahead of me.

The second major climb was around mile 8 and was a type of logging road that just continued up and up. Eventually we crested the top and continued on our way. After a few more miles on rolling single track trail, we started another climb that involved another stream. Some of the trail was literally in the stream as shown below on a previous day…

Hyner 12

The weather was a little on the warm side for this time of year. I believe it got to be in the mid to high 70’s. If you’ve never crossed creeks or streams while running, it definitely adds a different feel to your run. I welcome it because I normally don’t get bad blisters. If my legs are sore and have been going for a while, a cold steam refreshes the legs. As the day went on at Hyner, I definitely welcomed the stream.

The middle miles are somewhat of a blur to me. All I know is that there was another stream and another climb and some more rolling hills.

After cresting the 4th climb(I think), we ran a few more miles on a dirt road. This is me around mile 24….

Hyner 7

At this point I was feeling pretty worn down. Not from the running, but from the climbing. I could still run the flats and down hills normally, but it took some real good effort from mile 24 on to climb a hill, let alone mountains.

Speaking of mountains, I knew there was at least one more big climb left, called S.O.B. The name is fitting.

Cramping was also becoming an issue. I was taking salt tablets and S-caps each hour, and drinking lots of water. Around mile 26, the climb up Hyner mountain began….and somewhere close to the base of it, I stopped in my tracks. Both of my quads started to cramp at the same time. This picture is right around the area where I cramped and wondered how I would finish….

Hyner 3

….the picture is of it down hill. At this point, we were heading uphill. I took two salt tablets and started to hike again. After what seemed like an eternity of climbing up the mountain, the dreaded S.O.B. sign appeared that pointed straight up…

Hyner 4

As I started up the steep ascend, the cramping started again. I stopped every few yards to rest and stretch. Eventually, I crested that S.O.B. with an awesome aid station at the top….

Hyner 10Hyner 5

After about two more miles of a running/hiking on a logging road atop the mountain, the descend started. I could finally stretch the legs out and run more. This descend seemed to take forever, though. Finally after about 30 minutes of running downhill over a stream and some rocky sections, I finally hit the road where we started.

But instead of finishing where we started, the race director wanted to add one more climb to the finish. The climb was merely about a 50 footer…basically a little bump. But sure enough half way up it, both of my legs cramped. I stood there motionless like I had done on a few other occasions trying to figure out what to do next. I was about 40 yards from the finish. I decided to walk up it backwards. It worked , turned around and ran up to the finish line. Other than the Oil Creek 100K I had accomplished last fall, I had never felt so exhausted after an event.

And finally, something odd about my finishing time. My finishing goal time leading into the event was to finish in under 7 hours. Looking at results from previous years and runners, I felt under 7 hours would be a good personal challenge for me. The odd thing was, throughout the entire race, all I could think of in terms of time was 7:22. I had no idea why I was thinking it, but it was in my brain the entire way. I was still on pace for a 7:00 hour finish , even around mile 25. But it was 7:22, 7:22, etc. I even said it out loud at one point! Extremely odd. So, take into account all of the stops along the route, including aid stations, a bathroom break, exhaustion stops, and cramping stops. With all of that, I don’t have to tell you what time I finished in. I think you’ve figured it out on your own!

I like to think I am so in tune with my body and my run, that I can even predict my finish time!  🙂

Run on, friends.