Saturday, March 9, 2013

Rave Run: Acadia National Park

Cadillac Mountain in Acadia National Park, ME

Friday, March 8, 2013

Vacation Racing

There are two races I never got the chance to write about that we ran on vacation. One was in Hawaii and the other was in Italy.

In Hawaii we ran the Rain Forest Runs, which takes place at Volcanos National Park on the Big Island. This is a small town race in all senses. It takes place in the countryside and the course includes what seems to be every side road in the town. After running through the neighborhood where most of the houses are located, it starts gong up a hill, until you reach the end of the road. Then we turn around and head right back to the start. Most of the course is isolated and doesn't have fan support, but that's not a negative. The entire run is through the forest, as it's surrounded by vegetation and is stunningly beautiful Also, the last 4ish miles of the race are downhill and you can get some amazing speed.

After prizes for top finishers after the race aren't medals or trophies, but art, as it's sponsored by the local art center. This was an amazing race and a lot of fun.

In Italy we did the Marathon d' Europa which takes place in Trieste. The city of Trieste of small and on the border of Croatia and Slovenia. It's a point-to-point course that begins outside the city and finishes in the main square. The strange thing about running a race in Europe is hearing all of the race announcements in a different language. But having done enough races, we knew what to do and when to line up. The race itself was very cool. After a couple miles of flat and/or uphill, the last 10 miles are almost all downhill and make for a fast course. It's all along the mountains next to the ocean and has some beautiful views. The day we ran was quite hot and many people were hugging the side of the road to try and get some shade.

The excitement of the race builds as you get into the city and wraps around almost the entire central square of cobblestone road before crossing the finish line. There are large crowds and the support is impressive. Running a race in a foreign country is truly a unique experience and something we'll remember for a long time.

Overall ranking: 8
Course: 9
T-shirt: 2
Medal: 2

Overall ranking: 8
Course: 9
T-shirt: 4
Medal: 2

Austin Half Marathon Recap

Since February is generally a cold and snowy month in Boston, we decided to head to Austin, TX for a weekend in February and get some sun - and run a half marathon! The Livestrong Austin Half Marathon was taking place and it looked like a fun race.

When we arrived we went to the went to the expo and got our numbers. They had some decent race merchandise but I didn't end up getting anything. We then went for a run along the river, which was amazing. There were so many runners, walkers and bikers, which was really motivational. It was a dirt path that went on either side of the river and the scenery was really nice. We ran about 40 minutes, but then stopped to we'd be ready for the race the next day.

The starting line was at the Texas state capital, which is massive. There were a lot of people at the start but it wasn't overly crowded and we went towards the front. The course itself winds around downtown for the first couple miles, then heads straight south. It goes through some interesting neighborhoods, then turns and goes back towards downtown. Just when you think the race is getting ready to wrap up, you find yourself heading up some steep hills on the outskirts of the downtown area, and then winding around the capital before finishing in front of it.

The weather in Austin was perfect for racing and even through it has a couple big hills, it's a fast course. It's also well organized and the fan support is pretty good throughout the race.

UnitedHealthcare Triple Crown

In 2012 I participated in the UnitedHealthcare Triple Crown, which consisted of three half marathon: the Providence Half Marathon in May, the Jamestown Half Marathon in July and the Newport Half Marathon in October. I had originally singed up for Providence, then learned that the Triple Crown was formed and decided to do the others. I knew nothing about Jamestown (it was a new race), but had heard amazing things about Newport and decided to run it, even though it was a week after the Chicago Marathon.

Providence was pretty much what I'd expected from a small city race. It had a small expo, nice course and here-and-there crowd support. It was well organized and gave a good tour of the city, which was a plus. It actually has a very similar course as the Rock n' Roll Half Marathon.

Jamestown was a fun race, which did a complete loop of the island. It was quite challenging, especially in the second half, as there were several very steep hills. Since there weren't too many runners, I was completely alone during that part (I couldn't see anyone in front or behind me) and spent much of the race just trying to push myself. The crowd support was very, very thin, but it was such a relaxing atmosphere that I ended up getting in a grove and really enjoyed it.

Newport was by far the largest race. After a very crowded and somewhat disorganized start, the running spread out quickly because we immediately ran up a big hill. The race then went through neighborhoods, and about half way through, became really beautiful. We started running by stunning houses and along the ocean. It was a really windy day, so I ended up taking in the scenery rather than focusing on my splits. The race finished along the beach and afterwards, we spent the day in Newport and enjoyed the town.

ING Miami Half Marathon Recap

Since my grandfather lives in Miami, we decided to head down in January for a visit - which timed really nicely with the ING Miami Half Marathon (not a coincidence).

The day before the race we woke up and went for a run along the water. It was pretty and warm, but all concrete and didn't have the beauty that many other cities have. We then went to the expo to grab out numbers, before spending the day with family.

The race starts really early in the morning (6:15am). This is actually a blessing because it was really hot there, and as soon as the sun came up (around mile 4) we could really feel the heat. The race starts and ends near American Airlines Arena, and the course goes over a bridge to Miami Beach, through the area, then back over a different bridge.

The start of the race was horrendous - probably the worst I've ever experienced. I don't know what method they used to line people up, but I was put in the third coral and spent the first two miles pushing past people and running sideways more than forward, to pass people who were already walking or going really slow. After finally making through all of that, I got in a grove and enjoyed the run - which I was treating as a tempo. The fan support was ok and the course was decent, but not anything I was amazed by. The last couple miles go through the city and there's not too much build-up until you turn the corner and see the finish line.

I was glad I did the race, but wouldn't do it again.

Chicago Marathon Recap

I had been planning to run the 2012 Chicago Marathon for well over two years, and in short, it was everything I thought it would be and more.

We flew into Chicago with two of our best friends from college, who were also running the marathon. After arriving on Saturday morning (it would have been better to go a day earlier), we went to the expo and got our numbers. While I used to enjoy marathon expos, the crowds are starting to get to me, so I mainly wanted to get my number, t-shirt, check to see if there's any cool official race merchandise (they were sold out of everything but XL) and get out of there.

Before dinner we headed into Grant Park to do an easy 20-25 minute run. It was cold out, but there were a lot of people running and it was still beautiful in the park and around the lake. The excitement was in the air, especially as we ran by the starting line and saw everything being set up.

When I woke up the next morning I was pumped. The great thing about the Chicago Marathon is that you can stay in the city, roll out of bed an hour before the race, and leave the hotel just 30 minutes before the start. And that's wat we did. 30-35 minutes before the race we left the hotel, walked into the park and checked our bag, then made our way to the starting line. The starting area was huge, which have us space to move around, which was nice to do since it was about 40 degrees. When the race started there was plenty of space as the roads were wide. We then began a 26.2 mile journey through the city of Chicago that had fans cheering every step of the way - which was really awesome. Also, like I and everyone else had been told, the course is completely flat.

I felt really good through most of the race, but around mile 22 my quads got really tired and I ended up doing everything I could to hang on. I ended up finishing the race in 2:59:11, good enough for a 12 second PR!

After the race I quickly put some extra clothing on (it was cold out) and made my way to the massage tent, which was filled with really amazing people ready to help warm us up and relax our muscles. I really want to run this race again and beat my time, probably in 2014.

Eugene Half Marathon Recap

A few weeks after running the Boston Marathon, I went to Eugene, OR with my wife to run the Eugene Half Marathon. When we arrived it had the feel of a running town, and the first thing we did was go on a run along the river, which was filled with awesome paved trails. I think we could have easily gotten lost, but we didn't want to run too much the day before a race.

After picking up our numbers in town, we went to Hayward Field to get a look at the track. The gate was closed and locked, but that didn't stop us from snapping a few pictures at the entrance and checking out the University of Oregon campus.

The next day we walked over to the starting line, which was on the road outside of the stadium. The first half of the race went through the neighborhoods in Eugene and was a combination of flat stretches and rolling hills. There was a lot of crowd support throughout the race, not necessarily in bunches, but it was very consistent. The second half of the race was on the paths along the river, which we had gone on the previous day. But there were so many different paths I don't think we repeated any.

As we made our way back to the stadium I braced myself for the finish - 200 meters on the track at Hayward Field! As I turned onto the track, it felt really soft below my feet and I couldn't help but smile as I made my way to the finish line. Even though I was running a great time, I didn't want to rush the last 200 meters so I could try and take it all in - the crowd in the stands, running in the same place the Olympic Trials would take place just weeks later - it was awesome.

After the race we stretched, joined in on the pancake breakfast, watched the first full marathon finishers and then got a massage.