And now for my 2016 Trenton Half Marathon recap

I ran the Trenton Half Marathon in Trenton, New Jersey this past weekend for the 3rd time and had just as much fun this time around. trenton halfMy friend Jane introduced me to this race back in 2013 when it was only in it’s 2nd year.

at the start of the 2013 race

at the start of the 2013 race

It started about 30 minutes late that year, and it started late in 2014 too so I wasn’t too shocked when we started about 15 minutes late this year. But that’s really the only negative I have for this race.

and at the start of the 2014 race

and at the start of the 2014 race

The expo is really small. Jane picked up my packet in 2013 and this year as well, but I went myself in 2014. While they do have race day packet pick up I did hear that there were some issues with getting your shirt on race day so if you can get to the expo or have a friend go for you that would be best.

The shirt this year is EXACTLY my favorite kind….long sleeve with a v-neck (for the ladies) and slimming vertical white stripes up the sides. And it doesn’t have sponsor logos all over. #winningimg_7126

The medal is huge and it’s also a bottle cap opener

a medal and 2 dog butts

a medal and 2 dog butts

Getting to the race is easy by car. It’s only an hour’ s drive from my home in Staten Island. Just make sure to try and arrive an hour before the start for the least hassle. I literally drove right into the auxillary parking lot at 7am without any detours. It’s about a 15 min walk to the start but there is also a lot closer that is an option. I just wanted to play it safe in case that lot was full.

The race offerings: There are 3 distances—a 5k, a 10k and a half marathon. The 10k and half start together first at 8:00am and the 5k starts 30 minutes after. There were about 700 runners doing the half, about 700 doing the 10k and about 500 doing the 5k so overall I consider this a small race. Really small compared to many of my New York Road Runner races that are 10 times that size.

I met Jane and Amy in the parking lot just after 7am and we all walked to the start which is at Arm and Hammer Stadium where the Trenton Thunder minor league ball team plays. (One of the highlights of this race is that you finish right at home plate.)

Me Jane and Amy

Me Jane and Amy

We met up with a few other of Jane’s friends. The temperature was in the high 30s but the sun was out and it was supposed to warm up quickly to a high in the 60s later in the day. I felt the brisk air but wasn’t cold really. I wore my usual long sleeve tech shirt/Nike Aeroloft vest combo and capris for sub 40 degree weather. I probably could have skipped the vest but luckily I never felt over dressed during the race. After running the Staten Island Half a few weeks ago in the pouring rain, I was SO FRIGGIN HAPPY that it was sunny.

Amy wanted to see if she could hit 2 hours on the nose after running in the 2:04-2:07 range for a bit. Jane said she’d stay with her and try and pace her to her goal. Well not only did Amy hit her goal…..she smashed it and came in at 1:57. Woot woot!

foot art

foot art

I didn’t have a time goal but wanted to give a good effort and finish somewhere between 2:15 and 2:20. I’m nowhere near my 2:05 PR shape these days but I’ve been consistently running halves below 2 1/2 hours so I figured it was a good range.

The Start

The start

When you start, the first turn out of the corrals is crowded and frustrating but within 50 feet you are out on the street and it widens up. And I can tell you that you won’t experience congestion at all for the rest of the race. For me, as a middle-of-the-packer I actually felt a bit lonely during the last half of the race. :)

The first 5K is fairly flat or downhill (except for running up an exit ramp at the very begining) and all of my splits were sub 10 which was a confidence booster for me. I didn’t bring any fuel for the race and just drank Gatorade and water every mile or two throughout the race starting at mile 4 until mile 11.

Somewhere in the first few miles before entering Mill Hill

Somewhere in the first few miles before entering Mill Hill

The course: I love that there are distinctive chunks…the first 4 miles are in the city and through the Mill Hill district.

around mile 4 in the Mill Hill district

around mile 4 in the Mill Hill district

Then you cross the Trenton Makes bridge and end up in Morrisville, Pennsylvania. And just after the 10k mark you cross back over into NJ.

halfway done and entering back into New Jersey

halfway done and entering back into New Jersey

After that is a 2 mile stretch that is fairly flat along the highway but then comes the hill into Cadwalader Park and another hill once you enter the park.

Chuggin' along

Chuggin’ along

But by mile 9 you’re now traveling downhill and back to the highway for the final 5k along the flat stretch. Knowing the course helps because I knew I could take it slower on the hills if I needed knowing I could run a little faster on those last 3 flat miles. This strategy was exactly what I did.

Almost done!

Almost done!

I did feel my hamstrings tighten progressively during the last few miles, but I kept on chugging. And I finished in 2:16:49…only a few seconds slower than my 2014 race and 9 minutes slower than my 2013 race.

right in the middle of the pack

right in the middle of the pack

trentonhalf-finishJane’s friend Bill actually placed first in his age group in the 5k which was cool.img_9144

And then the best part of the day…..going to get drinks and grub and celebrate.

img_7015

I love that with each race I get more insight into just how running has shaped me….

My blog name was created because running helps me deal with anxiety because my mind is always running and it needs my body to follow :)img_6985

I run more than just to finish a race in a certain amount of time or get a beautiful medal.

Running has helped me:

  • Create an identity for myself when I felt I didn’t fit in.
  • Form friendships that I treasure with all my heart.
  • Be active…not just as a form of exercise but as a way for me to live each day with the desire to want to participate in life and not just sit on the sidelines and watch life go by.
  • Develop the power to inspire.
  • Honor the lives of those we’ve lost….most recently my friend Roseann lost her sweet pup Cookie. I dedicated my miles on Saturday to her. Last year I ran the NYC Marathon with the initials AZ on my back. Abbie Zukowski was the 11 year old daughter of my former high school friend Chris. She was tragically killed crossing the street. I’ve dedicated miles to Meggan Janota, one of the runners I met in 2013 when I was part of the Dicks Sporting Goods “Every Runner Has A Reason” campaign. Just before running the Tunnel to Towers run I decided to honor my friend’s dad who was tragically shot at a town hall meeting. She lost her battle with breast cancer a year later. And I always think of my late husband Dickey who died from Melanoma 17 years ago.

    This was a lifetime ago. November 7th 1998. He is with me for every mile I run. Ironically he hated to run. :)

    This was a lifetime ago. November 7th 1998. He is with me for every mile I run. Ironically he hated to run. :)

So now you got more than just a recap. 😉 I know i’ve said this before but this blog is really for me. It is so theraputic. From posts filled with pictures of dogs with costumes—to posts where I verbalize so well the true meaning of what running means to me—it’s all so helpful. I hope it’s helpful to you too of course!

What’s your favorite type of shirt to run in?

I ran the Philly Love Run half marathon in Philadelphia yesterday. This race has been in existence now for 3 years and I’ve run all 3 years.

You get a mug each year as part of your swag. They seem to be shrinking each year. :)

You get a mug each year as part of your swag which I love since I’m such a big coffee drinker. They seem to be shrinking each year though. :)

The first year (2014)  I set my current half marathon PR in the pouring rain.

Such a wild day running in the pouring rain

Such a wild day running in the pouring rain

Last year (2015) my knee was still recovering and I was just hoping to finish without crippling myself.

Yay! Done! Knee ok. Let's eat.

Yay! Done! Knee ok. Let’s eat.

This year I knew I wasn’t in PR shape but I also knew after last week’s Cherry Blossom 10 miler that I could run strong 10-minute miles for at least 10 miles so my goal was to finish between 2:10 and 2:15. Well, despite the ridiculously big hills between miles 7 and 8 I did it and came in at 2:13 with a 10:09 average pace.

medal-watch-love-run2016

Each year the course has changed between miles 6-9 and that has always been the hilliest and most challenging part of the course. I’m going to do a comparison of all 3 year’s courses in detail at the end of this recap but first I’ll recap yesterday’s experience:

Expo: I’ve yet to attend an expo since I live an hour and a half from Philly. I’ve relied on my friend Jane (and her resources) to grab my bib and swag every year. They are fine with someone else getting your bib as long as you show a copy of that runner’s ID.Thank you Jane!

Philly Love Run Race Day

Pre-Race: I slept at Mr SOTSS’ the night before so at 4:15am when the alarm went off I got up and shut it off quickly, got dressed, made a travel mug of coffee and toasted a bagel with a little butter and wrapped it up in foil so I could have my breakfast on the road. Mr. SOTSS’ dog Chester eats breakfast really early so he was happy to see me moving about at 4:45 am. I fed him (and Duncan too) just before I left the house at 5am.

note

Old school note left on the kitchen counter. Wouldn’t want the dogs to get fed twice although I’m sure they’d be ok with it :)

I ate half the bagel, half the cup of coffee and had some water on the drive down and by 6:30 am I was parking. The lot was almost full! Each year the race gets larger so if you plan to drive be sure to give yourself plenty of time to park. There is street parking if you are lucky but I hate stressing about parking so I just shelled out the $20 for the parking lot and patted myself on the back for getting there as early as I did. The lot I parked in is only 3 blocks from the start. By 7:30 I had met up with Jane and her friends.

Start–Mile 4: It was cold in the morning. Temps were just below freezing. But graciously mother nature decided to ease up on the original predicted wind and there was plenty of sunshine too. I decided to seed myself in the 1:45-2:00 hour corral.

View from the corrals

View from the corrals

More »

This sure was a busy weekend of hiking, biking and trail running…..oh and eating….lots of eating!

Saturday I ran the Beat the Blerch Half Marathon in Morristown, New Jersey. I was so off my game I forgot to eat breakfast or drink water before leaving the house and I didn’t bring a water bottle for the car. OOPS!

The good the bad and the ugly

I had been following some posts on the Blerch Facebook event page that the course was a legit and seriously challenging trail run and to be prepared so I initially thought I’d drop back to the 10k. But the night before I made up my mind to just ride it out and stick with the half. I was scheduled to run 10-12 miles anyway. Truth be told the only 2 reasons I got out of bed were to see my friend Jane (and her hubby, mom, sis and friend who were also running) who I hadn’t seen since the NJ Marathon back in April and to eat cake along the course. Part of the Blerch caché is that they have couches and cake along the course.

sweet cake! or cake, SWEET!

sweet cake! or cake, SWEET! and the first thing I ate all day (at mile 2)

one of the couches along the course

one of the couches along the course

So there you have the good!

There was a full, half, and a 10k and with limited parking at the location of the race they had shuttle buses to take us to the start. I got there super early and I’m glad because my bus driver got lost. I also noticed that after our bus pulled out the traffic getting into the lot for runners just a few minutes later to arrive was insane! The lines to get your race bib, shirt and check your gear bag were also pretty bad. In general it seems they were pretty short on volunteers. Poor communication and lack of volunteers = bad.

Luckily since Jane had such a big group we divided up to hold spots for each other in the various lines. All the logistics aside the vibe of this event was pretty cool. If you’re not familiar with the creator of the Blerch, Matthew Inman, and his comic called the Oatmeal you should check this out. It’s some funny sh-it!

blerch-cartoons

This is just one of the 1,456,321 hills that we ran up

This is just one of the 1,456,321 hills that we ran up

Before the race

Before the race

at the start

at the start

Lots of the terrain was rocky

Lots of the terrain was rocky

More »

I’m so excited to share with you my experience at the 2015 New Jersey Marathon. It’s all LOVE for this event. I apologize for the novel you are about to read (or scroll through).

The EXPO:

Mr. Sweat Out The Small Stuff and I went to the expo on Friday evening.

runNJ-expo-signWhen it comes to expos, Mr. SOTSS is more of the “run in, get race number, run out” kind of guy. He doesn’t get too excited about them. His whole running lifestyle is simple, practical and uncomplicated. But he loves how excited I get for expos that I love running so much that I love all the details that go into the race. He thinks I love preparing for a race as much as I love running them. What can I say. :) So the expo, the training, and all that happens from the moment I register for a race until the minute I cross the finish line (and even days after) is a big part of my life. It’s the reason I started blogging. OK sorry, I got off on a little tangent..

njmarathon-start

The expo is at the race track which is also where the race starts

expo-collage

I’m ready!

The expo was fairly simple. We didn’t stay for any of the seminars that were on tap, but we got a few samples and looked at some running gear and then grabbed our race bibs and shirts. I’ll say that the only part of this year’s NJ Marathon that I wasn’t in love with was the shirt. And guess what? I have so many running shirts at this point it’s really not a big deal. Especially since I signed up for the race a year beforehand at it’s lowest registration fee.

2015-njmarathon-shirtAll in all the expo was easy to get to, easy to navigate and quite empty. I’m sure Saturday was probably busier.

Since we went to the expo on Friday we had Saturday to relax without anything on the schedule.

More »