City Review: Little Rock Arkansas: A Great Way to Start a Great Trip (May 19, 2017)

Friday, May 19: Little Rock Arkansas is not high on many people’s list of places to visit. It wasn’t on mine either as we left for our week long vacation but I was really surprised at how much I enjoyed my time in the city.

On the way:

Leaving Bright and Early!

We left early in the morning (around 5:30 am) to make sure that we got there with plenty of time to explore the city.  The drive was an easy one with no traffic since we did not go through any large cities (we only skirted Memphis) and we arrived in Little Rock before 11 am so we missed any morning commute traffic.

First Stop: Clinton Presidential Library


We decided to make one step before we had lunch.  That stop was the Clinton Presidential Library & Museum.  We had only been to the Lincoln Library in Springfield, IL so we did not know what to expect to find at the museum. The museum was two stories and in the first story, there was a replica of the cabinet room and a long corridor that was arranged based on the years of the presidency.  Each year had its own panel in the center with sections based on topics surrounding them.

Mitra sitting in the President’s Cabinet chair

On the second floor there glassed in sections that held many of the gifts that President Clinton was given during his 8 years in office.  Also, Bride’s favorite part of the museum was the last thing that we got to look at.  There was a life-size replica of the Clinton Oval Office in the museum that we were able to walk through and take pictures in.  This room not only was impressive because it was the oval office but reading about all the symbolism found in the items that are located throughout the office. Overall the museum was a great experience, and some of the artifacts are priceless pieces of American history.

Second Stop: Lunch

From the Clinton library, we walked downtown to the River Market District and had lunch at the covered food hall located in the district.  The hall had multiple stands and restaurants, similar to the standard mall food court.  Although this one had a variety of small and diverse stalls to choose from.  You could eat from a different stall every day and could come back every day for over a  week or two without eating from the same place twice.

Third Stop: Arkansas Capitols

Little Rock has some similarities to Springfield, IL.  It has been the state capital for a long time and with that distinction comes the fact that there has been more than one capitol building in the city.  In Little Rock, the old capitol is in the downtown district right on the river.  The old capitol is open and is free for anyone to walk around and look at the displays throughout the building.  The displays include the history of the building, an overview of every Arkansas governor as well as a new display focused on the first ladies of Arkansas including dresses from the first ladies, including Hilary Clinton.

Last Stop: Big Dam Bridge & Little Rock’s Running Path

Northwest of Little Rock is Big Dam Bridge.  The bridge is the longest bridge in the country designed only for pedestrians and cyclists.  According to the plaques at the beginning of the bridge, this was the only bridge ever designed to be added to a dam.  All other bridges that span dams were designed as part of the dam structure but when this dam was built it was not meant to have a bridge over the dam.

Little Rock’s Riverfront Running/Cycling Path

*I am planning a larger, more in-depth post of this path later*

The bridge is a focal point of a 16-mile run/bike path that spans both sides of the Arkansas river.  The path connects Big Dam Bridge to a bridge near the Clinton Presidential Library.  The path is really developed and you can tell that Little Rock, as a city, is committed to making this path part of its community.  The path connects the Riverfront outdoor amphitheater, the Clinton Presidential Library, the Big Dam Bridge, Junction Bridge (pictured to the left behind Bride) and everything in between.  I am looking forward to coming back to Little Rock someday and spending some quality time pounding the pavement on the riverfront trail.

Overall, Little Rock has plenty of stuff to keep you busy for a long weekend or even a little longer.  It has a great mix of history, modern entertainment, and a great path to workout on.

Look for another post on our next city later this week!

-Runner

Vacation Posts Begin

Currently, I am in the middle of a 12 state 10-day vacation.  This vacation will include visits to Little Rock, AR, Dallas, Austin, San Antonio and Houston, TX as well as Panama City Beach and Ginny Springs in Florida before coming back home during the memorial day weekend.

In the next few days, I will begin posting the first in a series of reviews of the cities that we are visiting.  These reviews will not only hit on the attractions that each city has to offer but will also have pieces on the running/cycling trails that each city has and my opinion on how good each city is in welcoming runners, cyclists, and triathletes.

Little Rock and the beginning of my vacation will be the focus of tomorrow’s test.

-Runner

Ride Recap: Chicago’s North Branch Trail

This weekend I went up to Chicago in order to drop Bride off for her Ireland trip (hopefully she will update everyone on her journeys).  While up there I figured I might as well not waste a trip so I should get in a good bike ride while up there.  I studied what bike paths were available and asked some friends for their suggestions.  The North Branch Trail seemed to be the best one for the distance that I wanted to ride, as well as for being close to where I was staying near O’Hare international airport.

Bike and Trail MapThe day was pretty cold for May (temp at the start was 46 degrees) but since when did Chicago actually listen to the seasons when it came to its weather.  I decided to wear my long sleeve jersey but I wore it over my tri-suit rather than wearing pants.  I figured once I got going I would warm up.

Over the first few miles I realized there was a steady wind coming from the north that I would have to compete with for the first half of the ride before turning back south at the end.  The wind, plus the cool temperatures made the ride a lot more uncomfortable than it would have been otherwise.  With that being said, after I got going and warmed up I welcomed the challenge of the wind.

The trail was in great shape.  It was paved the whole way and even had an extra horse trail that paralleled the path, including have a few crossovers during the northern half of the trail.   Throughout most of the ride you are riding on a path covered by tree canopy connecting multiple parks following the North Branch of the Chicago River.  Below is a video of a small section of the path to show what great shape the path is in:

The only negative part of the path that I found was the lack of water fountains available to the riders and runners.  I did see there were some bathroom facilities available in some of the parks next to the trail and I assume there were some water fountains available near those bathrooms but there were no signs indicating their presence.  For cyclists this is not too big of a problem, but for runners this could really prove to effect your performance.

After riding approximately 13 miles north you get to ride around the Skokie Lagoons in an adjoining 4.2 mile trail before heading back south 13 miles back to Caldwell woods. (The video of my ride around the lagoons is directly below.)  I would love to do this ride again later in the summer as a 50 or 60 mile ride since it would be easy to complete two laps while being able to stop at the car to refill at the half way point if it is necessary.

Lastly, the quality of this trail has made me want to ride on many of the other trails around Chicago.  Although many are not long enough to be attractive for many of my rides, there are a few others that I would love to try eventually.

Below

Race Review: Bradley Indoor Triathlon

Review Wednesday has a new installment this week.

I have faced the challenge of a triathlon before.  In fact I faced the task of a 70.3 Race in heat over 100 degrees just last June.  But this weekend I attempted a new type of triathlon that is hard to prepare for.  I did my first indoor triathlon at Bradley University this Saturday.  Although indoor triathlons do not include the long miles found in outdoor triathlons, it does include very intense workouts meant to have you push yourself constantly for the entire time.

I got to the rec center on campus that morning around 7:20am (my swim wave was at 8:40am) prepared for what I thought would be a fun and exciting new adventure but I was in for a surprise.  I got prepared and got into the pool and started my day full of intensity, at a level I have not practiced at in a long time.

Bradley Indoor Triathlon-In the Pool

Swim Review:
Bradley’s pool is only 6 lanes of 25 yards each in a room with one wall of windows.  The sun outside made the room bright and the pool warmer than usual.  The swim wave consisted of 12 people so we were sharing lanes and I was stuck on the half lane closest to the wall.  I only hoped to not hit the top of the wall during one of my strokes (luckily this nightmare did not occur).

As the initial whistle blew I told myself to calm down and take it nice and slow.  The swim was for 10 minutes and my goal was to go 500 yards, or 10 full laps of the pool.  I got the first couple of laps completed I realized I felt good and was ahead of my pace. I continued to push the pace but as I did I realized something was wrong.  I broke my nose in high school and since then I have had issues with water getting into my nose.  With that issue I wear a nose piece when I swim but in the middle of a lap at Bradley it fell off.  The crazy part was, I kept going with basically no issue afterwards.  I finished the session with 575 yards completed, blowing away my goal of 500 yards.

Bike Review: 
After the swim we had a quick turn around to get to the bikes.  The bikes were set up along a wall on their indoor soccer/hockey court.  They were very comfortable bikes and I was most impressed with the handlebars and how comfortable they were.  The bikes had bike computers on them so we could constantly see our RPMs and distance as we pedaled.  Above us we could see the track and the runners from the earlier heat.  Also there was plenty of music playing to keep your mind off the business at hand.

I began with a high resistance and an average cadence (95 RPMs) but soon realized it would be better to have a lower resistance and a higher RPM.  I lower the resistance until I could maintain around 105 RPMs.  I kept this until the last 5 minutes when I continued to increase the resistance during the final push.  My goal for the bike was around 8 miles, but it is tough to judge this goal because each indoor bike measures a little differently.  I ended up going 8.2 miles which I am a little disappointed with after seeing the other results.  I believe the bike is where I need to work the most in order to accomplish my goals.

Bradley Indoor Triathlon-On the Bike

Not the best posture, but I am putting in the miles!

Run Review: 
After the bike my legs felt pretty good and I was going into my best event.  I have been a runner for years now and I am confident in myself to push through the pain and to keep running.  My goal was to run 2 miles in the 15 minutes allotted, which was 16 laps of the track.  I started off at a conservative pace knowing I needed to get my legs back before I pushed too hard.  Soon I was up at the pace I felt comfortable with and was on my way.  As the time ticked by my legs began to ache from the previous cycling and running efforts.  I pushed through and at the 2 minutes left mark I was only one lap away from 2 miles.  I completed the lap and a little more, eventually clocking in with a 7:22 min/mi pace for the 15 minutes.

FINISH: 
I was happy with my performance and beat all of my pre-race goals.  After my work was calculated they estimated my spring triathlon finish time to be 1:05:42, enough for 30 place out of 90 competitors.  I am happy with my placing and it shows my training is paying off.  I do not consider myself one of the faster people, in fact I have always thought of myself as an endurance person before I was a speed demon but this shows that with practice I can get faster.  This provided me with some confidence that I can use for motivation for my longer distances in the summer and fall.

The biggest news of the weekend is by participating in this triathlon, I have qualified for the NCAA Triathlon Collegiate Championships in Clemson, SC in April! Excited, and cannot wait to participate.

-Runner

 

Training Tuesday: Feb 8-Feb 14

Feb 8:
-Swim Session: Lap Swimming (2,250 yds, 43:08; 1:55 min/100 yd.)
-Strength Training: Shoulders (45 minutes)

Feb 9:

-BRIC Cycling Session: 1 Hour Spin (28.2 mi; 28.2 mph)
-BRIC Running Session: 1.25 Mile Run (9:42 min; 7:46 min/mi)

Feb 10:
-Run Session: 2 Mile Warm-Up for Indoor Soccer (15:22; 7:41 min/mi)
-Indoor Soccer and Basketball: 1 hour 15 minutes
-Strength Session: Legs (40 minutes)

Feb 11:
-Run Session: 4 Mile Half Marathon Tempo Run (30:38; 7:39 min/mi)
-Swim Session: 650 yd (11:47; 1:49 min/100 yd; practice with a friend for Bradley Indoor Tri)

Feb 12:
-Off Day! (Travel for Bradley Indoor Triathlon)

Feb 13: Bradley Indoor Triathlon
-Swim Session: 10 Minutes (575 yd; 1:44 min/100 yd)
-Cycling Session: 20 Minutes (8.70 mi; 26.1 mph)
-Run Session: 15 Minutes (2.03 mi; 7:22 min/mi)

Feb 14:
-Off Day to Celebrate Valentines Day!

This was a very rewarding week.  I really began to focus on getting in some serious workouts to mark the beginning of my building up towards my half distance triathlon in May.  The week included multiple long and hard workouts in the beginning and ended with an Indoor Triathlon at Bradley University in Peoria, IL.  By competing I qualified for the NCAA Triathlon Championships at Clemson University in April!

This week I have a fun and unique goal.  The Rec Center here on campus is having a three week long “Indoor Ironman” competition where during those three weeks you are asked to complete 2.4 miles worth of swimming, 112 miles on the bike and a 26.2 mile run.  I thought it would be fun to try to get all those distances in one week.  I began yesterday and will work through Sunday in order to get the required distances.  What a week!

-Runner

Looking Back: Walt Disney World Marathon Weekend

Today begins the Walt Disney World Marathon weekend at Walt Disney World in Orlando, FL.  The Dopey runners will be racing first to the expo today before beginning their four days of races.  With the 5K starting tomorrow followed by the 10K, Half Marathon and Marathon.  Each year I get emotional when this weekend approaches.  This race has been a very important part of my life and will always be special to me.

When I started running I was looking for a goal race and when I saw the date for the Disney Marathon I knew it would be perfect for me.  I was an undergrad and knew that the best race would be during the winter break allowing me to take an extended vacation to the race and not have to worry about quickly heading back to attend class.   That was beyond the fact that getting to run around Disney would be a great first race to complete.  It served as a great motivation during the training and will always be one of my favorite races.

Beyond Disney being my first marathon, it was also the race where I accompanied two of my best friends complete their first marathon.  In 2014 and 2015 I accompanied friends through the 26.2 miles as they completed their first race.  Being able to watch each of them through the struggle that each marathoner has made me realize how great an accomplishment completing the race is.  I have accomplished a lot of goals since I started running, but seeing each of them cross the finish line in Orlando was a unique accomplishment that I will always appreciate.

Lastly, and most importantly, this race was the backdrop for one of the most important events in my life.  After completing my first marathon in 2012 I made another commitment that would change my life, I proposed to Bride! I thought that there was no better way to signify an ending of one chapter in my life and starting a new one than completing my first marathon as the period of one chapter and proposing as the introduction to the next chapter.

During my training for Disney Marathon 2012 I grew so much and learned so much about myself.  It changed my life forever and I will always look fondly at the race, the environment, and the emotions at the finish line.

-Runner

Race Review: Hot Chocolate 15K in St. Louis

Disclaimer: I received a free entry to the Hot Chocolate 15K as part of being a BibRave Pro. Learn more about becoming a BibRave Pro (ambassador), and check out BibRave.com to review find and write race reviews!”

For anyone seeking the best way to take a break from Law School finals I have found the secret.  Just take a quick trip out of town to an enjoyable race to get your mind off the stress of finals.  When I saw that the Hot Chocolate series was coming to St. Louis on the weekend between my two weeks of finals I thought that it would be a great release from the strain of constant studying and pressure that was bound to occur during those two weeks.

Post Race 1There has been an exponential growth in themed races in America.  Just in the few years that I have been running there has been an explosion of race series that have themes surrounded by parties, celebrations and excitement beyond the thrill of finishing.  There are races now that promote glowing paint, mud (lots of mud!), inflatables and color powder just to name a few.  One of the best tasting themes of any of these races is the Hot Chocolate series that has quickly expanded to multiple races throughout America.  The races start in November and run through the winter and into the early spring in cities throughout America including a very big race in Chicago each year.

This is the third year for the STL race and the previous two years the Hot Chocolate was well deserved at the end due to the weather.  This year the temperature at step off was in the fifties and they announced that combining the previous two years temperature at step off would still be 20 degrees below this year’s temperature.

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: 17/20
I have ran some of the best ran races in America and I love to see different approaches to putting on races.  Hot Chocolate, obviously, has plenty of experience putting on races and they have perfected what is needed to run a successful race.  They sent out multiple e-mails with training plans that list out what a typical training plan would include in the upcoming weeks to help runners prepare.  They provided plenty of guidance on the locations of the expo, the start line, the finish celebrations.  There will obviously be a difference between this race and the large marathons and it would not work well for races like this to mirror the Chicago or NYC Marathon with their promotions with the participants.  Instead Hot Chocolate has developed its own unique approach that worked great for the STL race.

Union Station Entrance

Expo: 14/20
Hot Chocolate ExpoThe expo for the Hot Chocolate race took place in the historic Union Station. Union Station is in the heart of St. Louis and, in my opinion, one of the most beautiful buildings in the city. So often people look to the Arch as the extent of the St. Louis iconic architecture without realizing that there are buildings like Union Station that should be ranked up with the Arch when people look at St. Louis.

The expo was a small expo but it served the purpose.  I was able to quickly walk in, get my registration packet and look around without having to fight the crushing crowds seen at some expos.  One of the best features was after picking up my packet I was able to try on the long sleeve jacket to confirm that it fit, while being able to switch it out if I need to, before leaving the expo with it.  Many of the sponsors were local companies that have roots in the STL area that provide a great regional feel to the expo.  This feel was a great experience since most of the runners were inevitably from the St. Louis area so advertising local companies and races would have the biggest impact.

Course/Race Experience: 16/20
Hot Chocolate CourseThe course started on Market street downtown and went towards the St. Louis University Campus before turning back towards downtown where the 5K/15K split occurred.  The course then ventures past Busch Stadium before heading south towards the Budweiser Brewery before the turnaround.  Around mile 7.5 or so there was a turn that began a long hill that culminated almost a mile later.  The race completed with a small hill, that felt much bigger on tired legs before a gradual downhill into the finish line.  The first mile was almost all uphill and the final 2 miles was a majority uphill as well completing what was a tough 15K race.

On the course there was only four water stations, at each there was water, Gatorade and a snack relating to the chocolate theme.  I did not partake in the snacks, not wanting to chance my body not appreciating them, but other runners said the treats (including chocolate chips, as well as strawberry and chocolate marshmallows) were great.  I understand that when the temperatures are cooler fewer runners will take water but with the temperatures as they were on race day I felt that an extra water station would have gone a long way to making the race more enjoyable.  Two miles between water stations is further than what is found in other races.

Hot Chocolate Finisher

Post Race: 12/20
Although the warmer temperatures created a more enjoyable pre-race environment, that same weather created a less enjoyable post-race environment.  The whole theme of the race revolved around having a warm cup of hot chocolate waiting for you at the finish line to warm you up after being out on the cold course for the race. To add to the warmth it drizzled throughout the race creating a very uncomfortable setting for the post race celebration.

The hot chocolate was great and the cup shaped serving dish that held all the post race treats including more marshmallows, a banana along with dipping chocolate and the cup of hot chocolate was a great way to quickly serve all the runners allowing there to be virtually no line to get the food. Overall the post race experience would have been must better if the weather would have cooperated to optimize the experience.

Hot Chocolate Cup

Extras: 17/20
Finisher MedalThe Hot Chocolate series tries to make itself stand out with the extras that it provides to runners.  Beyond the post race hot chocolate the series gives every runner a nice long sleeve zip up jacket as well as a distinctive medal that features a candy bar with a bite out of it with a unique picture representing the city that the race takes place in. These are some of the best extras that are provided for free from any race that I have ran in.   The jacket is something that I will wear regularly in the future.  The medal features the arch and city skyline and is one of the most unique medals I have earned.

 

MY OVERALL EXPERIENCE: 76/100
This was a fun race that I would definitely look to do again in the future.  In fact I will look to do some of the larger Hot Chocolate races to see how they compare.  Specifically I would love to do the Chicago race that I have heard from friends is one of the most fun race in the second city.  I would recommend this race, and the series to every runner that I know!

-Runner

Ironman 70.3-Eagleman: Race Recap

This was not just my first Ironman but my first triathlon in general.  With moving to IL and this race being fairly early in the year anyways I did not get a chance to start a shorter triathlon before tackling all 70.3 miles of Eagleman. Although that fact weighed on my mind, it did not have that much impact on my race and although my time doesn’t show as well as I was hoping I think I performed well and learned so much more for all the triathlons in my future.

Saturday Expo and Bike Check-In:

Bike Racked in Transition 2

Bike is checked in and ready to go for the race!

My parents were nice enough to accompany me out to Maryland for my race.  Bride was busy studying so I figured I would make the journey by myself and take my time coming home, depending on how exhausted I would be after the race.  My parents being there with me for this journey made my race experience much better and I am happy to say they enjoyed themselves at their first triathlon as well.

We got to the expo early on Saturday so I had plenty of time to register, go to my athlete briefing and look around before heading out on a quick bike ride to get my legs warmed up before it had to be racked in transition.  I got my bike racked and checked into transition early in the afternoon and was off with my parents to relax the rest of the day before the long day that I knew would be ahead on Sunday.

Pre-Race/Transition Set-Up:
My father was nice enough to get up early and drive me to the race start so I was there by 5:10am with plenty of time to set up my transition before it closed at 6:30am.  Without having done a triathlon before this one I knew that setting everything up would take me longer than others so I wanted to leave plenty of time for me to rearrange my area if needed.  The other 25-29 year old men around me were nice and we chatted about the day ahead as we all began to get set up.  This conversation included a lot of talk about advice since many of us were doing our first 70.3 race as well as discussion about not using wet suits since the race water temp was said to be 78.6 (77.1 is the cut off for wet suit swims).  I got my transition set up (unfortunately I didn’t have my phone to take a picture!) and was off to wait until wave 20 of the swim start.

Swim Leg (1.2 Miles): 50:33
After talking to so many other athletes this weekend I believe that there are two distinct groups of triathletes: 1)those that like the swim and 2)those that don’t.  I, along with the vast majority of triathletes, fall into the second group so as I entered the water I was prepared for the least enjoyable part of my day and what I got did not disappoint.

The swim started my swimming out about 10 yards off the pier to a shallow area where you could stand for the start. As the gun sounded I was prepared for the chaos of the mass start and stayed in my spot for just a few seconds to allow those serious swimmers a chance to go ahead.   As I began the adrenaline began to pump and I began to remember all the time I had spent in the pool, specifically for this moment.  As I began to maneuver around those slower swimmers I realized that some were still standing.  The shallow area (approximately 4 feet deep) went out for the first 100 meters or so.  I slowly stood up and began to use the shallow area to catch my breath and relax before hitting the deeper water.

I did it! I finished the swim!

I did it! I finished the swim!

After about 300 meters in the water my body wasn’t relaxing very well and I knew that if I was going to get through this swim I needed to calm down, catch my breathe and remember that I will make it through this swim.  That is exactly what I did.  I took my time by treading some water to catch my breathe and slow my heart rate and remind myself that I trained hard for this and was prepared.  As I started going again I remained calm and slowly got closer to the first swim turn (first of two).  As I made the turn I realized that the reason that first straight away seemed so difficult was because we were swimming against the current and now the current was pushing us.  With that help I felt like I was flying when I reached the second turn back towards the exit.  After that turn is where I began to catch swimmers from the group ahead of me (they started 4 minutes earlier) and I began to think about my transition.  About 250 meters out it got shallow again and you had to basically walk in.  The water was only about 2 feet deep for this section, even too shallow for your arms to stroke.

As I came into the finish I realized I had done it.  The hardest part (so I thought) was over and I knew then that I would finish the race!

 

Bike Leg (56 Miles): 3:34:22
Getting Ready for the BikeAlthough a lot of my early training focused on my weakest leg (the swim) a lot of my recent training had focused on getting miles in on the bike.  One of these training rides even included riding this specific route during the Six Pillars Century Ride (see the review here) in May before moving to IL.  That ride, followed by a short run, provided me with a lot of comfort about this course when I hit the road on Sunday.  I knew it was going to be a hot day so I took some time to put on a cycling jersey over my tri suit so I could carry my nutrition and cover up my shoulders to avoid being sun burnt.

The route takes the riders through the Blackwater Nature Preserve where you can regularly see eagles nesting (hence the name of the race). Along with animals along the way you can also guarantee that there will always be wind.  The nature preserve is located between two bodies of water and that causes wind to come from all directions at all times.  On most hot days you would welcome the wind, but this wind was not cool, but instead it was just blowing hot air into your race the whole day.

None the less, I was feeling good going into the bike leg and as I got out on the ride I realized that I would easily be able to get a faster time than on my ride during the century just a month before.  But at around mile 35 all my joy of how well the race was going began to disappear.  The arch of my foot began to hurt and I could tell, without getting off my bike that it would make my run really hard…and painful. Coming in from the bike my emotions were running high, I was excited that my legs felt great and that I crushed my previous time on the course but I was so upset that my foot was hurting so badly that I knew then my run would not be fun, and would not be a good time.

Run Leg (13.1 Miles): 2:59:57
I got off the bike and tried to take a few steps and could only limp.  I arch was hurting so bad on my right foot that I couldn’t put my full weight without a lot of pain.  I thought it would get better in a few minutes so I got ready for my run.  I put on more sunscreen, grabbed my hat and started to head out to the course but despite my hopes my foot did not feel any better.  I knew that I had to put in the miles so I began to walk with the continued hope that it would eventually heal up enough that I could run in.  I walked for the first 2 miles before my foot felt well enough to run and when I did I only was able to make it about a half mile.  From then on I would run as far as I could before the pain became too much and then walk until my foot felt better.

Although it felt like forever by the halfway point I came to the realization that I was going to finish, not with my ideal time but I would finish.  I know that not every race is going to be your best but I always hope that an injury like this would not hobble me during a race.  The temperature continued to rise through the afternoon and didn’t make it any easier to do the run, adding to the difficulty I experienced throughout the time pounding the pavement.

As I pasted the 10 mile marker I told myself that now was the time to push yourself despite the pain and after the 10 mile marker the only times I walked were through the 2 water stations, trying to finish as strong as I could. Crossing the finishing line I was proud, despite the struggles. I finished my first 70.3 and I know that I will do another one as soon as I can.  Although my next endurance adventure will be this fall is not a triathlon, I am already planning my 2016 year to include AT LEAST one triathlon!!!

Finishing

Crossing the Finish Line

TOTAL TIME: 7:39:38

Final Thoughts:
I didn’t have the best race, my foot bothered me more than I could have imageined and I know that if that did not happen I would have gotten under 7 hours.  I found, through all the training, the early mornings and the early nights that I am in love with triathlon.  Although running is still my first love, this triathlon proved that not only can I excel at another endurance challenge, but that I can push myself further than I thought and that with training I can do anything…maybe event 140.6 in 2016!

The design of the Eagleman medal!

The design of the Eagleman medal!

Race Recap: 2015 Delaware Half Marathon

This past Sunday I have a privilege that I am so happy to have had.  This Sunday I ran with Bride during her first half marathon.  She came to me before the new year and said that she wanted to make a New Years Resolution to run a half marathon.  Obviously I was very excited that she made this commitment.  I told her I would help her all I could and I would run with her during her race.

To begin the year I wrote out a training plan for her to follow and help introduce her to the best parts of running. She followed my training plan the best that she could (missing just a couple of runs when she felt under the weather) and she grew to actually like running!  I let her run by herself during her shorter runs but made a point to join her on the longer ones including an 8 mile run up Mill Mountain in Roanoke, VA and a 10 mile run in Williamsburg, VA.

Leading up to the race I could tell that Bride was so excited for the event and I was even more excited for her.  I knew that she would struggle at times but I always knew that she would finish.  Not only did she finish but she got a better time than I thought she would get.  I will not take away her thunder and will let her tell everyone about her run.  I will just review my run and my opinion of the whole event below.

MY RACE:
The weather could have been better for this race.  The day was VERY hot and VERY humid (92%).  Although the rain held off it did not help.  The heat has to effect any runner and it definitely made the run harder for us.  The route took us all around Wilmington, including past the minor league ball stadium, the waterfront, the downtown, the zoo, a beautiful city park, quiet neighborhoods and their little Italy.  You could not ask for a better tour of the city, which to me says a lot about the race.  We finished strong, despite the many hills throughout the course and I am nothing but proud of Bride’s performance.

Race Organization: 10/20

This is a small race, so it will inevitably have some hiccups along the way.  The race organizations revolved around a beautiful little park on the water in Wilmington, Tubman-Garrett Park which provided a beautiful starting point and location for the expo.  Except, the size of the park limited the size of everything.  The park is not a large park and the expo had to resort to only having a couple of tents with just two vendors and one tent for the title sponsor (Discover Card).  This park also caused the start line to be congested and chaotic the morning of.  The bag drop off was hard to find, the corrals were almost non-existent (a 4-hour marathon runner lined up next to us behind the 11 min/mile sign because there was no room near the front) and the areas for the crowds were tight and caused more congestion on the streets. I told Bride before we stepped off that this race had out grown this park.  In the future I hope that the race either rearranges the start line to better accommodate the size or works to stagger the start so that everyone can have a more enjoyable beginning.

Expo: 8/20

This rating might seem harsh but I cannot but help rank this expo compared to other races that I have been apart of. This race is small but it is the premiere marathon in the state and should have a better expo.  As mentioned above, the primary reason that the expo is so underwhelming is because it is confined to the small footprint of the waterfront park.  They try to make the best use of space that they can in this small area but there is no way that a proper expo can be accomplished in this small space.  I would suggest that the organizers look at using the parking log of the neighboring waterfront market as the base for their expo in the future to allow for a larger one that can hopefully attract more vendors.

DE Half Marathon CourseRace Experience: 18/20

My race experience after I started the start line was amazing.  The route started along a beautiful water front trail winding through a lot of new development, office buildings and their minor league baseball stadium before heading into the city around mile 3.  From miles 3-5 you went through parts of downtown and began the your run through Brandywine Park.  In Brandywine Park you got the chance to run right next to the Wilmington zoo (close enough that you can hear and smell the animals) before making a u-turn our of the park and onto Park street where the hills truly began.

The next two miles included a constant incline before leveling off in a beautiful neighborhood.  After running around the neighborhood you went into Little Italy where the greatest mid race snack I have ever had awaited.  This snack was even better than the gummies at mile 23 of the Disney Marathon.  Around mile 9.5 Bernies Italian Ice (Title Sponsor of the Wilmington Italian Fest) was passing out their signature Lemon Italian Ice.  There could not have been a better mid race snack on such a humid day than a small cup of this delicious flavored ice!!! Around this same time we heard the police sirens that were with the lead runner, and defending champion Titus Rotich.  As he passed us Bride was able to see up close just how fast he was running.  We got to see him climb a small hill over a train track and experience just how impressive his athletic ability is.

To close out the race you run down the Park St hill we ran up after Brandywine Park and at mile 12 we turned towards the finish line for the final mile downtown.  Only to realize that there was a final half mile hill facing us.  We finished under our goal and looking back on the course I realized that I felt like I saw all of Wilmington while being challenged with the hills, the heat and the sun.  It was a great course and such an enjoyable race.

DE Half Marathon MedalPost-Race: 17/20

After finishing the race we sat down to relax and quickly was able to pick up our bag from the small bag check and got in line for the food that was provided.  The food included sliders, chips, fruit, and drinks that all tasted good after the run.  But what stole the show was Bernie’s Italian Ice being there with two extra flavors (coconut and cherry) along with their lemon that they had on the course.  On top of all of these the race medal is one of my favorites and includes a spinning boat at the top along with sights from around the course. This race is an example for others to follow on what to provide to its runners.  Finally, the park’s location along the waterfront provided beautiful scenery and after finishing any race it always feels good to relax after knowing you have worked so hard for the whole morning.

Extras: 18/20DE Marathon Headsweats Hat

Every race tries to have their perks that make the race memorable and worthy of the entry fee.  The Delaware gave perks that few other races, at its price point, can provide.  While at the race we were able to get a free Headsweats Hat, pint glasses with the marathon logo, a (with a discover card) a car magnet themed for the race and a mesh bag that I will definitely use again.  The hat is one that I will definitely wear on future runs and is a much better hat than the one I received at the Shamrock half in VA Beach in March.  This race is an example for others to follow on what to provide to its runners.

MY OVERALL EXPERIENCE: 71/100

This race had a little bit of everything.  It had a great course that included urban, trails, hills, hot weather and fun. The expo could be improved but I think that this race is one that I would suggest others run.  My two pre-race categories (expo and race organization) are low but all the categories that take into account the actual race and afterwards are very high.  The race itself is a great race and has many positive aspects.  I would suggest that this is a hidden gem, especially on the east coast were many high profile races take a lot of the attention.  I am glad that Bride chose this race as her first half marathon and I hope that it will not be her only one.

-Runner

Best of Charleston

Last month Runner and I headed south to Charleston, SC for a quick visit. Runner’s parents drove from Illinois out to the East Coast for their Spring Break. We were grateful to meet them down south for some warmer weather! This was our second visit to the Holy City. We visited for the first time Christmas 2013. The city is hailed as the #1 US City to visit and the #2 best city in the WORLD (#1 is Florence) according to Conde Nast.

While Runner and I are just not that impressed*, there are some sites that are worth visiting for:

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Fort Sumpter – The fort is best known as the site upon which the shots that started the American Civil War were fired, at the Battle of Fort Sumter on April 12, 1861. Make sure you plan carefully for this trip because you travel to the Fort by ferry which only leaves at certain times of the day. Fun fact: When we were on the ferry, Runner’s Mom noticed a strange cookie for sale called a Benne Wafer. Being the total foodie that I am, I immediately looked it up. They are super sweet sesame cookies. They sell for $4 for a bag (cheaper than at a gift shop) – try them!

Rainbow Row – The historic row of old townhouses, painted pretty colors. You could take a carriage ride to view these, or like us, just drive by.

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Pineapple Fountain – I have a thing for pineapples, I love em! Visiting this fountain in Waterfront Park was right up my alley. Also, along the waterfront are porch swings looking out onto the river.

Charleston Tea Plantation – I would recommend this to anyone and everyone, unless you really hate tea or something. For a small admission fee you get to ride a trolley through the fields, taste several kinds of hot and iced tea, and walk through the factory. After taking the tour, you will truly appreciate the process of making tea and be amazed that the tea plantation is the only one in America. Plus, the gift shop also has a lot of good stuff.

Sesame Burgers and Beer – Runner found this place based on it’s good reviews on Trip Advisor. We went to the Mt. Pleasant location. Two words: Adult milkshakes! Actually, we went there looking to have the BEST onion rings as voted by the Charleston City Paper, however, they were way too thick for our liking. We split the South Carolina burger which stole the show with it’s homemade pimento cheese.

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Angel Oak – The oldest tree on the East Coast. We found out about this at the Charleston Tea Plantation, which had a little handout with the direction to get to it. Only a short drive and totally worth it. This tree makes you want to hug a tree. Avoid the gift shop – too pricey – but it’s their only way of raising money so what are you gonna do?

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Firefly Vodka Distillery – Unfortunately, we weren’t able to visit Firefly Vodka Distillery during this trip because they are closed on Sundays. But they have little tasting room with large shots, lets just say its a potent tasting.

*We are aware this may be considered controversial, but really, New Orleans, New York City, etc are much more exciting cities not to mention all the international destinations.