Hershey Half Marathon Results!

Let me start off by saying that the Hershey Half is one of my favorite races of the year. I think Hershey has a lot of great things going for them, and being able to support the Children’s Miracle Network is a major win.

The course is challenging with its share of hills and twists and turns, but it’s not soul crushing like some other races I’ve entered. The venue, packet pickup, and attractions- all good. Like I said, it’s one of my favorite races all around.

However, my only complaint (rather suggestion) is that they:
A. Have the runners sign up in waves based on pace
B. Assign corrals, and Include pacers

To clarify, at the very beginning of the race, they tell everyone to line up based on their pace – but no clear direction is given, everyone just crams to the front as best as they can.  Having corrals will ensure the fastest runners are in the front, and progressively slower runners will make up the rest of the pack.  During the start there was a mad dash or confusion as I passed people by and people passed me by.  Corrals would certain help with congestion and make it safer than having runners cut you off in a tightly packed herd. Also during the race, pacers go a long way in keeping the crowds moving… and purely for selfish reasons I do better when I can spot pacers, it helps me regulate my speed.

I realize pacers and corrals carry their own logistics, but the Hershey Half is a seasoned race where the added extra steps would go a long way and I’m sure the event organizers could handle the change.

Anyway this year’s race went rather well – I felt good about my training, my nutrition, and my overall plan of attack for the 13.1 miles.

Training is what it is, my goal of running 100 miles a month really helped me put mileage on my shoes and prepared me physically for the endurance needed to succeed.  Despite whatever weird pain it is that I have in my shin, I was able to maintain a fairly stable pace throughout the entire race.

Nutrition is clutch, leading up to race day and during the race, fueling can make or break your success. I made sure to eat balanced meals the entire week before the race, and took extra care to not over indulge.  I drank plenty of water on a daily basis to stay properly hydrated and the day of the race I made sure to maintain my hydration levels.  I also decided to use Tailwind Nutrition’s Endurance Fuel over the course of the race to help sustain my energy levels. Fueling on the move can be a pain, and I didn’t want to have to mess with gels or jelly beans during the race, so I made the decision to go with Tailwind.  Spoiler: It was an excellent move.

Having a Plan of Attack is always a good idea.  Since I’m pretty horrible at knowing how far I can push myself, I decided to pick a comfortable pace and just maintain it throughout the race.  I know I can run 8:30 min/miles for 4-5 miles, but was concerned at 13 miles if I would crash and burn after I passed my safe zone.  So, I decided to pick a safer pace and I know I could maintain with easy effort.  I settled on a 9:30 min/mile pace, knowing that I could always increase my speed near the end as long as I had the energy.

The plan paid off, it was painful at first getting passed left and right, but my patience to maintain my pace rewarded me in the end.  In the beginning I didn’t mind getting passed by… but after mile 9 came and went and I was still getting passed, I started to doubt my pace of choice.  It wasn’t until mile 11 that I noticed I was gaining ground and passing a lot of the people that had initially passed me.  I ended up really picking up ground on mile 12 and just felt unstoppable.  I entered the stadium with blazing speed at a 7:45 min/mile pace and hurried past others like they were standing still – the crazy thing was, by the end, I still felt like I could have kept running.

Well, thanks for sticking around to the end:
2016 finish time was 2:14:00
2017 finish time was 2:13:51
2018 finish time was 2:01:57

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September Miles! Triple Digits

Welp, I did it again! I got my monthly goal of 100+ miles in a month… and it feels awesome. It might seem like I’m going backward, but October I’m going to reel things back and reduce my mileage.

And here’s why.

As you can imagine, after increasing my average monthly mileage from 70 to 100 miles, I was bound to find new injuries along the way.  Calm down Uncle Jim, my knees are fine – what I did discover:

I was having issues with tenderness in my plantar fascia.  Plantar fasciitis is a fairly common ailment among runners and easily treatable.  I won’t go into all of the details (Google is your friend), but I found my heels and arches were often sore following a long run. After a quick YouTube search, I was able to pinpoint that the issue is in the calf-muscles and not properly stretching AFTER my runs.

I found that giving myself a somewhat painful and deep tissue massage along my calves and plantar fascia, I was able to reduce and relieve the pain.  Also, foam rolling after runs has helped drastically reduce soreness and tenderness.

Second, I’ve been experiencing some tenderness in my lower left shin, almost like a wicked bruise that won’t go away.  I’m not sure if this is a stress fracture on my lower leg, or if a tendon is just bruised and needs to heal. Either way, I’m taking it easy to hopefully not exacerbate any injuries, I don’t want to take any chances.  Also, I don’t know how to describe exactly what I’m feeling other than the pain is similar to a bruise.  I don’t experience pain when I walk or put weight on my leg, so it doesn’t seem like a fracture is an issue, again just soreness.

The Hershey Half Marathon next weekend, and for the most part, I have only logged 18 miles in the last 11 days.  This upcoming week (before the half marathon) I’m not going to run at all, maybe a slight jog around the neighborhood – like I said, I just want to take it easy.

Hershey Half Marathon

Only 40 days away from one of my favorite races: The Hershey Half Marathon! If you have never run this race, it’s one you should totally consider. It was my submission for The BibRave 100.

The course has rolling hills, and traverses the Hershey area- you’ll take in sites of the theme park (as you run through it) onto the cozy side streets that make up the town, and right through the Milton Hershey School dorms where the students cheer you on with nothing but positive amped up energy.

Trust me, it’s an amazing experience- plus the medals and swag each year are pretty awesome.

Training has already begun- ish. Basically, the plan of attack is this:

1. Increase monthly mileage throughout August and September (which I’m on track as far as that goes). The goal is to just get in more running time on my feet and follow this up with…

2. Incorporate one 13+ mile long per week by mid-September into October.

I’m trying to condition my body to run 4 miles every day and then sneak in a Half Marathon once a week to prepare for the distance. Every year I end up sabotaging myself by not getting in those long runs and conditioning myself for the 2 hours I’ll be on my feet.

I’ll do this up to the week before the race, rest for a day or two, maybe run some low mileage runs but give myself a little break before the race.

The goal this year is to finish right at 2 hours, or less. As long as I beat my previous years, I’ll be happy with that.

The things we learn when we get older…

Strength training and stretching has been a long forgotten art throughout my running career – until recently.  These areas of exercise and fitness were two pages I would gloss over when working on my running program.  The thought of going to the gym and lifting weights created a rise in my anxiety levels, to the point where I would just convince myself running was all I needed.

Youth, the springtime of life, where running alone is all you need to stay in shape.  When I was 16 years old I started to come out of my shell and wanted to do more than just ride my bike – so I took an interest in surfing.  I was never any good at it, but would faithfully tag along with a bunch of kids from school and eventually got connected with a local surfboard maker.  I actually took the time and shaped my own surfboard, bought a wetsuit, and just like all my other hobbies found something else – running.

I would run 5-6 miles a night, averaging around 8-minute miles on a treadmill in my parent’s unfinished and dark basement.  It was 45-50 mins where I would shut off my mind and just run.  I had managed to drop weight and started to look somewhat athletic.  I could rinse and repeat this practice daily.  In fact, I kept this practice up until the treadmill eventually couldn’t handle the use and died.  It’s a sad story, it became a hanger for old clothes and “stuff” laying around the basement.  It remained in that tomb for years, until my parents decided to finish their basement and eventually put the treadmill to the curb.  Anyway, I digress:

Around 10 years years ago when I started to have issues with my weight.  I recalled how much I enjoyed running and also, how much weight I was able to lose – that was enough motivation for me to start running again.  I quickly found that running with all that extra weight came with an added cost.  I wasn’t as nimble as before, and the added weight really put a strain on my lower back.  It was like my body was punishing me for trying to get healthy.  In addition to the weight it didn’t help that a) I wore the wrong shoes and b) my form was horrible.  I ended up pulling a muscle or tendon in my foot (Peroneal Tendonitis) that put me out of service for months.

I learned, Adulthood was not the springtime of youth, and that I needed to improve all areas of my body in order to become physically fit enough to just run.  Once I had found success in weight loss through a proper diet, I started running again.  This time, I invested in running shoes and paid closer attention to my form.  I found that regularly running 3-4 miles a night was enough to keep me in shape, and also was just enough to avoid injury.  The occasional 6-8 miler was doable, but I would feel tightness in my lower back that would persist if I didn’t take a day or two to rest.  It was right after my first half-marathon that I discovered there was still a lot of work to do.

Fast forward to today, I’m able to pause in reflection of my errors and now include a slew of post running exercises to help improve my running form.  Now, the debate is out whether or not Pre or Post running workouts help, I prefer post running since cardio is my first love.  What works for you is between you and your doctor (insert seek health professionals approval before beginning a running program disclaimer here). This isn’t a definitive list, but here are the exercises that have found help lower my chances of injury and have made running enjoyable once again.

Strength Training:
Lower back extensions are a must, I’ve added these to my regiment to help strengthen my lower back muscles.
Situps and planking to help improve my core, I have found that this practice has helped reduce hunching over while running and keeps me upright throughout my running session.
Push-ups for good measure, because upper body strength helps pump me up those hills!

Stretching Routines
I don’t know the formalities on stretching, so here is what I do – I focus on my main muscle groups: hips, hamstrings, thighs, glutes, and calves.  Then stretch out my plantar fascia and work on focusing on my foot muscles by stretching them out with weird drunken yoga ballerina-type moves. There are plenty of focused stretching videos on the Runner’s World YouTube Channel.

Death March – Trail Running, an Experience

Yes, you read that right. Death March is a Half-Marathon(ish) trail run through some dense woods along some gnarly hills and yet contains some of the most awesome views.  I was lured out to this adventure by my close friend and his girlfriend (now fiance) – two amazingly talented runners that for some reason enjoy this punishing trail of death.

Actually, I think they love bringing newbs like myself out to the trail and take sheer pleasure in watching us beginners try to navigate the obstacles a the while trying to keep a modest pace.

Regardless, I hated my life, but somehow enjoyed every minute of it.

The trail system is a unique trek along the Susquehanna River, that yields some pretty impressive views that require an equal amount of effort (if not more) to obtain.  The first 5 miles is a winding wooded trail system that has you traversing narrow passing, hoping over little creeks and crossing the same road a few times to screw up your internal compass.  I’ll admit the beginning was fast paced, if you would consider an average 14 min/mile fast, and my heart rate was elevated to match my level of excitement, fear, and wonder.

The views from mile 5 or 6 or something near there- give me a break I was experiencing Runner’s High

After the wooded trails you enter the thick of the woods that run parallel to the river.  It was here that I truly experienced some hardcore trails – consider this more of a spirited walk with extra pep. My heart rate at this point leveled off a little, mostly because the small snack break we took helped me calm down, and the sights we took in reminded me to enjoy the moment. It was also in this moment that I really felt like we were alone – the trail system runs along elevations that no one dare to domesticate.

I met the three sisters, the “mountains” we would spend the bulk of our mileage trying to conquer. First off, these sisters are jerks, it was at this point where I really started to hate my life and my choice to tag along.  We stopped at one of the sisters where I filled out a log book, cursing my friend and everyone on the trail that day for coning my into coming along.  During the stop, I paused my Garmin – only to forget to restart it about 3/4 of a mile from our brief resting post.

Hot Dog Hallow- a questionable Duck Blind in the middle of God-knows-where

It wasn’t until we crested the final hill and saw our escort vehicle that I immediately felt 10,000 times better. Just the sheer thought of having completed our journey sent a burst of adrenaline through my system, and it was at that very moment that I knew I was hooked.

I’ll be back, with more GU Energy Gels, a full Camelback Hydration Pak, Honey Stinger Waffles, and CLIFs bars!

Handful of Gu Energy Gels and Magical Sport Beans to help power me through the hills. And yes, those are Street Running shoes- not trial shoes.

Hershey Half Marathon, a Wrapup

Well another year has come and gone and another chance to hit a PR was on the line. The Hershey Half Marathon is one of my favorite races of all time and continues to serve as a benchmark for the race season ahead. So how’d it go? Here’s the nitty gritty.

Did I PR? Why Yes, Yes I did!
I managed to snag a course PR… by 9 seconds. I guess I shouldn’t complain because a PR is a PR is a PR. My finish time was 2:13:51 and I’ll take it.  My goal was to hit 2 hours even, by the start of the race I was held up by some slight congestion with the mass of runners and the first two miles were averaging around a 9:30 pace.

I knew from the start that if I wanted a 2 hour finish I needed to dig deep and push hard.  Unfortunately my body had other plans, and rather than injure myself I decided to run at the race my body was telling me.  The first 5 miles I was running a comfortable 9:30 average pace and if I held that pace I knew I would hit a 2:04ish finish time.

Learning from Last Year:
Last year I had to stop twice to pee – which cost me precious time.  So taking a note from last years race, I made, what ended up being a crucial mistake, by deciding to not drink a lot of fluids the night before and the morning of the race.  I figured I’d carry my own water (infused with Nuun) and would make due on the course.

Mile 6-7 proved my no fluids tactic was dumb and my left leg revolted in the worst cramps I have ever experienced! I ran into some friends that could see the struggle in my face, however their encouragement pushed me to press onward and run through the pain.

I could feel the tension in my left calf muscle, but as long as I put most of my weight on my right leg it wasn’t horribly bad. And the fact that I had some friends nearby I felt the need to keep up. I held an average 10:30 min/mile for as long as I could. By mile 10-11, I knew the race was almost done, but my calf was just not in the mood. I slowed down, got to the side of the course and stopped- a cardinal sin in my book of running. I stopped and evaluated my situation, I ran both hands down my legs to make sure they felt the same. My thigh muscles and calf muscles were identical so I knew I hadn’t done serious damage. My left calf muscle just felt tense- so I took the opportunity and massaged it firmly while stretching it out a little. The brief stop was relief enough for me to bounce back slightly and maintain a 10+ min/mile pace.

As I rounded out the course there were kids from the Children’s Hospital there cheering us on and the emotional experience took my mind off the pain and I pressed on.

I finished the race, grabbed my medal, my snack bag and headed right for the infield of the stadium. I collapsed and immediately began stretching and massaging my left calf in an effort to rid the pain. After about 10 mins I got up and at that point noticed walking was out of the question- the stiffness was too great. Walking was out of the question, but as long as I kept my heel up, jogging back to my car was still in the cards.

As I jogged back to my car I overheard some people saying “that guy is still running- guess he thought this was a Marathon…” I laughed in my head as I returned to my car. I guess from someone else’s prospective it would appear that way- which made me stop and think for a brief second: Should I run a full marathon next?

Crazy right?

Half Marathon Training!

I’ve neglected to update this poor blog, so in an effort to maintain some level accountability here’s an update on training.  I recently discovered Matt Fitzgerald’s book “80/20 Running” and have taking stock in adopting the principles of slower running.  In a nutshell 80% of my training will be dedicated to slow run, like really slow running.  Running so slow that I’m slightly embarrassed to post my 5K runtimes in the 40 min range slow. Buuuuuuut, if it means I can crank out a Half Marathon under 2 hours, I’ll take it.

Speaking of a half marathon finish under 2 hours, will it happen in a few weeks?! Not sure, yet.  I have been maintaing weekly averages in the 10-15 miles range, and only as of lately strayed to scale things up.  I’ve got 4 more weeks until the Hershey Half, so I’m not going to get too strung out if I don’t hit my under 2 hour goal.

Week 1 (6 weeks until the half)
Training consisted of two (2) 3 mile runs during the week and ending with a 6 mile run on Sunday.

Week 2
Training consisted of one (1) 3 mile run, and one (1) 4 mile run during the week, ending with a 6 mile run on Sunday.

Week 3 (current week)
Training this week included one (1) 3 mile run durig the week, one (1) 5k Pumpkin Run Race this Saturday, and ending out on Sunday with an 8 mile slow run.

Next week’s training (week 4) will include 3 mile runs during the week and another repeat 8 mile slow run.  After that (weeks 5 & 6) will include light 3 mile runs during the week and then my long runs will increase from 8 miles to 10 miles on Sundays. The follow Sunday (week 7) is the Hershey Half and will end the week with a 13 mile run.