Birthday Wish List

With only 13 days left until my birthday, I decided to share my wish list with you.

I wear a watch every day to work. Isn’t this one cute:

I’m a major foodie and would like to try to make a Blue Apron meal.

All the K-cups!

Looks like Jason Mraz is in town for the night. Anyone want to share their ticket with me?

On October 13, I’ll be working (no Columbus Day holiday for me) and hopefully Runner will take me out for dinner. For a fun blast from the past, check out my birthday wish list from 2011. Any other Libras out there?

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New York Wedding Weekend

Runner and I attended a wedding on Long Island last weekend. And true to our monikers, I was a member of the bridal party and Runner went running.

We spent our first two nights in town (Garden City) with our friend Jamie. I got to satisfy my everything bagel craving pretty quick. Bagelman was across the street — highly recommend! Then we went to Coney Island which was just a 45 minute drive away. The sunny and 75 weather was almost unreal. Nathan’s Famous was bustling with people and the countdown was on until next year’s hot dog eating competition.

nathans

The rehearsal dinner was held at Novita. We were treated to a delicious 3 course meal, including a groom’s cake in the shape of the groom’s favorite food – steak! The cake was a “medium rare” red velvet flavor. The next morning the girls gathered to get ready at the Garden City Hotel. What a gorgeous property and 140 years old!

The bride let us choose our own hairstyles. Inspiration:

inspiration

Inspiration

madeup

Not bad right?

The wedding came and went much too quickly. We had an amazing time. Best wishes to the happy couple!

couple

PS: Major props to the wedding band, The Projekt. They played top 40 hits all night long, let the groom have a trumpet solo, and made me a believer in live bands at weddings!

Run Review: 2014 Newport Liberty Half Marathon Review

The day before any race I usually try to prepare the best that I can for the adventure.  Including going to bed early, eating healthy and relaxing and staying off my feet but this past Saturday I did anything but that.  I was on Long Island for a wedding which was supposed to take place on Sunday (the night of the Newport Half Marathon) and since I was there, and I needed to get in the miles I decided to register at the last minute for what is usually said to be one of the most scenic races in the Northeast.  The day before on the other hand was not like the eve of any other race.  I went to Coney Island with Bride and two of our friends, walked around followed by being out late at the rehearsal dinner.  I woke up really early and made the 40 minute drive across Manhattan to Jersey City for the race.

New York Skyline at the Beginning of the Race

New York Skyline at the Beginning of the Race

PRE-RACE: 
This race was full of firsts for me.  Starting with it being the first time I have done race day registration.  I usually plan my races out well ahead of time, and build up to them.  This one was different though, it was a spur of the moment race that I looked at as just part of my training for the Chicago Marathon. After arriving I walked up and paid the, very reasonable, $50 for the race day registration.  I got my number, my t-shirt and was on my way to bag check quickly.  I needed to check my bag immediately because I needed to get in a few miles before the race since I needed them to properly prepare for my upcoming race.  I originally planned to get in 7 miles before the half marathon to bring my total miles to 20 for the day but I woke up a little late, and hit a little more traffic than expected on the way over so I only was able to get in 4 before lining up.

As I ran my early miles in the fog and the humidity I noticed that I was definitely not the only one using this time to get in the extra miles that we needed.  In fact I realized that many of the runners there use this race as a training race for a later fall marathon.  I finished my 4 miles with about 25 miles until step off but I quickly realized that biggest fault of this race.  The size of the race, about 3,000 runners was just too many for the location of the start.  We were in a small park near the water in Jersey City and there was just not enough room for everything that is needed at the beginning of a race.  There was very little water and even fewer porta potties, luckily at this time in my running career I am well trained to not need to use the bathroom before many races.

Newport Half Marathon MapMILES 1-4
The race began in front of a large mall and a couple of large hotel and headed around some old industrial buildings before coming back on the other side of the street to the starting line around mile 2.  From mile 2-mile 3 there was a gradual hill but in reality of many other courses it would not even be considered a hill.  Mile 3-mile 4 lead you through some of the nice neighborhoods of Jersey City before turning towards Liberty State Park right after the mile 4 marker. You enter the bread and butter of the race, Liberty State Park, around mile 4.5 and begin a journey that will wind you through the park for the next 6 miles that will include some of the best views I have ever had during a race.

MILES 5-8
Liberty State Park is where many people catch the ferries to both the Statue of Liberty and Ellis Island.  The park is right on the water and through the first  1.5 miles of the park you don’t quite see what makes this course so iconic.  When I came to mile 6 I noticed the time clock that said 54 minutes.  I knew that I started a minute or so after the clock and I felt good so I began to think that it might be possible to break the two hour mark for the first time in a race.  I told myself to keep up my pace until mile 8 and then make the decision to push it to the end to guarantee the sub 2-hour finishing time.

After mile 6 you turn towards the water and you realize why this is such a great course. Here you run right along the water and not only can you see lower Manhattan but you are very close to the Statue of Liberty (the NJ coast is closer to Lady Liberty than the NY coast).  The morning has been very foggy and hazy, create a very high humidity from the rain the night before, but right around this time in the race the sun poked out, the fog broke and the Manhattan skyline appeared.  It was a beautiful sight and since I cherish a great course when I run, it was a great added value to the race. Miles 6-8 followed the water, including a switch back around mile 7.75.  As I reached mile 8 I realized that I still felt good and I decided to push my pace to guarantee that I would achieve the sub 2-hour time.

MILES 9-12
Mile 9 brought the course right next to the ferry port where there was a line of cars waiting for the race to pass until they could park and get on the ferry. Miles 9-10.5 winded through the last part of Liberty Park including passing the boat docks, before entering the roads of Jersey city again.  The small hill that we went down around mile 3 we now had to climb headed towards the waterfront. Mile 11.7 marked the final water stop and that is around the time that I finally realized how great of a race I had ran and that I was going to break the infamous 2-hour mark in an actual race. After the water stop I passed the mile 12 marker and looked toward the finish line.

MILES 12-13.1
The last mile of any race is always the hardest but I found this mile one of the hardest closing miles I have ever had.  You ran on the waterfront and constantly had turns, that you always thought would be the last.  The winding final mile closed as you finally turned back onto the road that you started on and headed towards the finish line for the last quarter of a mile.  You turned and finally saw the finish line at the 13 mile mark and as I turned I saw that the clock said 1:58:15!!! I knew that I had broke the 2-hour mark and not only that, I had done it after start the day with four extra miles!

Celebretory Selfie

CONCLUSION:
I will soon follow my race review template for this race but I thought my milestone deserved some credit before I point out some of the more negative aspects of the race.  This race, more than any other, provided me with more confidence than I have ever gained before from finishing. As I now look forward to racing through downtown Chicago in a couple of weeks I know that I can keep the pace that I need to give me a chance of reaching my stretch goal of a 4:00:00 marathon.  I went to the wedding that night and danced the night away despite my legs being tired from the miles.  It was a great running day that I will be able to point to as a milestone for many years to come.

-Runner

Tips for a Great Time in Virginia Beach

vabeach14

Over labor day weekend, Runner and I ran in our 3rd consecutive Rock ‘n’ Roll Marathon in Virginia Beach. There is definitely something to repeating a race over and over – you gain a ton of knowledge on how to have a great experience.

1. Book your hotel early

You will be tempted to stay in a hotel outside of the beach to save money. We’ve done it twice before, especially when we needed a hotel last minute. The race’s shuttle service is amazing but you will have to wake up suuuuper early. The city offers a limited number of parking lots that fill up quickly. If you truly want to enjoy an end-of-summer beach vacation, book in May. We found a great deal at the Sundial Inn which was just a block from the beach. We were able to walk to the start and finish lines.

2. Pizza makes a delicious pre-race meal

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Dough Boys Texas BBQ Chicken Pizza

Pizza is popular here. We’ve tried Planet Pizza and Dough Boys. These are chain restaurants you can find up and down the main drag (Atlantic Ave.). The trick to these places is to avoid standard meal times – eat early or late. And if pizza’s not your thing, we did notice that a few local restaurants and churches offer spaghetti dinners for runners.

4. Don’t get sun sick

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The beach at 5pm – plenty of sun!

Go to the beach at 5 pm. Seriously. You’ll get enough sun during the race. You don’t want a sun burn before or after.

3. Treat your self to Virginia Beach’s signature drink

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The Original Waterman’s Orange Crush: Fresh squeezed orange juice with orange vodka, triple sec and a splash of Sprite. The bar was crazy busy but the drink was oh so refreshing.

5. Check out the free concerts

DSC00468

2013

Don’t forget to bring a lawn chair, a low one preferably. You will have to sit in the back but you are about to/just finished running so treat your booty right, lol. On Saturday night we saw the Cherry Poppin Daddies (of Zoot Suit Riot fame) for free. Sure, we stayed up a bit late the night before the race but it was worth it. The big concert is the night of the race, so you get time to go back to your hotel and take a nap. We got the concert early and enjoyed the food vendors. The race organizers do a presentation for the top runners. Our headliner this year was Train. Live music with your toes in the sand – there is nothing better! Oh yeah, and a firework display to top off the night.

-Bride

photo 5

Fun in the sand!

photo 2

Cherry Poppin Daddies Performing Zoot Suit Riot

My Most Unusual Long Run Ever!

Today I planned on continuing to follow my training plan leading up to the Chicago Marathon in 29 days.  I was really excited to say that this week was a shorter week for me, after a tough 18 miles last Saturday.  I was scheduled to run only 14 today but then I realized that I was also supposed to run a 5K this morning.  The “Race for Every Child” is put on by Children’s National Hospital in Washington DC and it raised over $1 Million for its foundation.  Since I wanted to do this 5K and I needed to finish my long run I came up with an unusual plan.

Thinking about how to best accomplish both of these I decided that I would run 9 miles before the 5K then run a couple of miles back to the car after the race.  So that is exactly what I did.  I woke up before 6am just to get downtown in time to put in the miles before I met the ophthalmology group before the race.  During those first early morning miles I felt GREAT, in fact it was the best that I have felt in a long time.  As I approached the meeting point for the 5K I was actually a little sad that I couldn’t just keep going.

I met the group and took about a 30 minute break before I started the 5K with one of Bride’s coworkers.  He ran slower than my normal pace so it was an easy 5K for me, but at the same time I was coming off such a great 9 miles I did wish that I could speed up and continue my great pace.  I did stay with the coworker and we finished with a respectable time just over 30 minutes.Race for Every Child Course Map

After the 5K we waited again for the rest of the team to finish and after a photo I started on my way for the last couple of miles before I finished.  The first half mile or so of this section was by far the hardest. My legs had tightened up and  my whole body had to get back into the running mode.  With that being said, I did get back into the groove and and was able to finish at the same quick pace that I had during my earlier 9 miles.

Overall this morning was the most unusual long run I have ever had.  This run was divided up into three obvious sections and included two long breaks where my body got tight and caused two uncomfortable starts.  With that said, breaking up my long run like this caused it to feel a lot quicker and easier than runs at these lengths have in the past.  I think that this formula is one that I will look for in the future, especially on my lighter weekends in the future.

-Runner

Race Review: 2014 VA Beach Rock and Roll Half Marathon

I must admit openly that it is hard to have a bad experience when you get to spend Labor Day weekend on the beach and get a ticket to a headliner concert with your race registration.  That being said, like every race this race is not perfect and has some things that it could improve on and when compared to other races it has to be judged as falling short.

We moved to Washington DC on Memorial Day weekend of 2012 and on Labor Day weekend of that year I found this race not only as an opportunity to welcome myself to the Washington DC area but also it provided us an opportunity to have a great vacation to signify the end of summer. This year marks the third consecutive year that we have both done races as part of this weekend and we are planning on going back again next year.

Race Criteria: I have divided my experience into five categories that cover what I think is every aspect of a race.  Just to make it easy each category will be numbered 1-20 for a total out of 100 to rank the race.

Race Organization: 18/20

The Competitor organization has gotten plenty of compliments on how it puts on its Rock and Roll Marathon series, most famously their Las Vegas race every November, and I must concur with all the compliments that Rock and Roll has been given.  The VA Beach Half marathon is always put on well with plenty of security and medical personnel on the course, ample water stations, and plenty of on course entertainment to earn the name “Rock and Roll”.  You can always dog a race for not having too many porta potties at the start or at parts in the race but no matter how many you have there will always be a line and this race was no exception but that does not ruin any part of the race.

Expo: 13/20

The expo is one place where I believe that this race could improve.  For the last three years this race has had essentially the exact same expo.  They have not added any new features or good presenters that have added a lot to the experience.  This race has over 15,000 runners and I think that the expo could be larger and better utilized to add to the race experience.  Although there are plenty of booths there is just something missing that can take the expo to the next level.

Course/Race Experience: 19/20

2014 VA Beach Half Medal and Bib

2014 VA Beach Half Medal and Bib

When I look at a race and try to decide if I want to do it, the course/race experience is one of the things that I look at most.  Whether it is that the race is historic (Marine Corp, NYC, Chicago or Boston for example) or has a unique on course experience (Walt Disney, Big Sur, Pikes Peak) a unique course always makes a great impact on the overall experience for any runner.  VA Beach has that unique quality to the course and the race that creates a great environment for any runner. On this very flat course you start off at the convention center just a few blocks from the beach and you quickly run to Atlantic Ave right next to the beach where the 5K race turn off occurs around mile 2.75.  After that you head south past the Virginia Aquarium before making a turn at mile 6 and heading towards an old military camp for miles 8-10.  After the camp you tun back towards the beach for miles 10-12.  Right after the 12 mile marker you hit the boardwalk for the last mile.  This mile is not only beautiful as you run along the boardwalk towards the finish line but excruciating at the same time since you can see the finish line but it is still so far away.  All three years this last mile has been the hardest of the race as I have to run towards the finish line that doesn’t look like it is getting any closer.

When you look at what makes a course unique you have the urban courses that allow you to see the whole city, like in New York or Chicago, and you have the scenic ones that allow you to see places in a way that you never had before, like Big Sur and Pikes Peak and this race in VA Beach is a great mix of the two.  You have long stretches of quiet roads south of town but you get to begin and finish near in the city, finishing with a beautiful run on a great boardwalk.  This race being on Labor Day does make it challenging because of the heat that can occur but it also provides for a great chance that the weather will be great for the race. Rock and Roll hits a homerun with this course and I would recommend that they don’t change a thing going forward.

Post Race: 13/20

For anyone who has crossed the finish line after a long race, at least if you are like me, the first thing you want is something to drink and eat.  Luckily, many races have great post race celebrations that will allow you to successfully recover quickly.  VA Beach unfortunately has to fight against the lack of space on the boardwalk that creates huge problems for the post race party.  The Boardwalk is not that wide so it is very hard to fit through the 15,000 runners, all the volunteers handing out the food and drinks as well as all the spectators trying to find their friends and family who have just finished the race.  After you squeeze through the guantlet of the finish line and you are ready to celebrate with your free beer you have to walk on the sand to get it.  This year, more than others, bothered me since sand immediately covered my shoe and provided me with a very uncomfortable walk back to the hotel.  The same finish that provides such a great site to the runners also doesn’t allow it to have enough room to have a great post race party.

Extras: 17/20

Let me start with the worst part of the race, the t-shirt I am not big on the freebies, or the medals, but I was very disappointed in the shirt.  it went for the nostalgic look of running on the beach but it came off as simply…cheap.  Given it is a Brooks technical running shirt so it is a great shirt to run it, it is just not one to wear around to brag about you finishing the race.

Each year on Labor Day weekend VA Beach hosts the American Music Festival.  They have multiple stages throughout the boardwalk which host dozens of concerts throughout the weekend, culminating in a headliner each night on a large stage on the beach.  With your entry into the half marathon you get access to EVERY concert the whole weekend.  Also, Bride, who runs the 5K, gets free access to the headliner concert on Sunday night at the beach stage.  This year that headliner was Train and they did not disappoint.  We also got to see Cherry Poppin Daddies sing their signature hit “Zoot Suit Riot” at one of the free stages on the boardwalk.  This added benefit puts VA Beach in a league of its own out of all the races that I have ran.  Never have I gotten access to such a great perk just for signing up for the race.

Runner and the Bride at the Train concert on the beach

Runner and the Bride at the Train concert on the beach

MY OVERALL EXPERIENCE: 80/100

This race is one that I look forward to every year and will continue to run as long as I am able to.  This race is a weekend experience for me and Bride.  We enjoy the beach, the weather, the celebration of the end of summer as well as the ability to complete a race.  Usually I have to hurry home after a race to be work on Monday, or rush to the race for a Saturday race but this holiday weekend allows a lot more relaxation to take place.  We took our time getting to the expo on Saturday morning, driving down from DC that morning, went to the beach afterwards and was able to relax after the race until the concert and not leave until after my recovery run was done the next morning.

I can’t wait to go back.  The highest compliment that I can give to this race is not my recommendation, but the fact that it also has Bride’s recommendation!