Runner’s World Festival weekend

It’s taken me a while, but here’s my recap of a fun weekend running the “hat trick” (5k, 10k, and half marathon) at the Runner’s World Half and Festival.

There is one reason I waited… I wanted to get photographic proof that my 5k time is posted incorrectly. This is one of two slightly annoying things about an otherwise very well organized and enjoyable event (the other is that, because I didn’t make it to Bethlehem, PA before 7pm on Friday night, I couldn’t get my number and shirts that day; when I did pick up my number early on Saturday it wasn’t possible to get shirts until 10am and with the start of the 10k at 9:30, I didn’t make it there until later and they had run out of the blue shirt in both small and medium sizes – hat trick runners were supposed to get both shirts and a hat).

Let’s get the timing issue out of the way – the official results list me at 20:29 chip time, 20:30 clock time in the 5k, but my real time was 19:54 clock, and, I believe, 19:53 chip. There were no finish line photos on the site for the time I came in, so I had to screen capture from the finish line videos, so they are not the clearest of images.

Clock time 19:54 as I cross the line (red shirt, white hat, and a skirt)

Number a bit blurry, but that's definitely me - see, I'm wearing a skirt and everything.

Number a bit blurry, but that’s definitely me – see, I’m wearing a skirt and everything.

Rant over.

I’d booked a hotel about 5 miles from the start (partly because of a family connection that gets us discounted Marriott rates) so I decided to throw my bicycle in the car and ride to and from the races – I wasn’t planning on breaking any records so the bike ride was going to be a nice piece of extra training.

Apparently parking around the start area can be difficult – you can prepay for some of the parking lots around there, but overall given the logistics of parking I’m glad I had my bike.

The website had mentioned secure bike parking, but nobody seemed to know anything about it, and someone pointed me in the direction of bike racks. It turned out they had a sign over by the gear check so I did move my bike there (when I asked exactly where I should leave my bike, nobody knew and they were even surprised by the sign because it hadn’t been there before apparently).

At some point the music started and the party atmosphere was starting, although it was cold and I think I was still waking up. We lined up at the start banner, but then had to walk forwards to the actual start line for the 8:00 start (the start banner was the start of the 10k). Of course, I got caught up in the racing as usual and ran faster than I had planned, but I felt good and didn’t go 100% all out. I was a little concerned about the issues I’d been having with my knee, but didn’t feel anything until after the 5k and it wasn’t too bad at that point.

I didn’t want to really injure myself so I started the 10k at a relatively easy pace (the start of the 10k was at 9:30 so in between most people were keeping warm in one of the buildings around the start). Halfway through my knees weren’t troubling me, so I picked it up a bit, although some of the gain in pace was probably due to the second half being more downhill than the first. At some point I had a conversation with a guy about the skirt I was wearing – he seemed interested in the idea of it being a comfortable choice so perhaps there’s another convert to the benefits? 10k chip time: 43:05.

At the end of the 10k I was approached by a woman who said “nice skirt, but it’s the wrong one” – it was one of the women who runs http://runningskirts.com; I should have paid attention to who was going to be there and run in one of their skirts instead!

The beer (actually I think it was slightly flavored water) on offer at the end was Michelob Ultra so after one of those I had a look around the Expo, and headed back to the hotel to get changed. I had to make up for the Michelob, so the family (who had been swimming in the hotel pool all morning) and I headed to Bethlehem Brew Works for lunch. We had tried to go there when we arrived on Friday but it was so busy that the wait was over an hour, and with young kids we couldn’t possibly do it, so we had walked down the street and eaten at a very pleasant place with decent food called Ephesus (no alcohol as it was bring your own, but that was okay).

For Saturday lunch, service was a bit slow at the Brew Works, but the beer was pretty decent and the food wasn’t bad either.

After lunch we headed out to visit friends who were in Jim Thorpe, PA for the weekend. By this point though my knee was hurting, and my wife was trying to convince me not to run on Sunday – apparently runners are pretty stubborn about not giving up a run but I promised I would take it easy and bail out if I needed to.

The next morning my knee wasn’t feeling too bad but I’d made up my mind to run it relatively easy and chose to run along with the 8 minute per mile pacer so that’s where I started… and I managed that for the first 3 miles. At that point though I was feeling fine, and just wanted to run faster. So I did. Given last month I ran a fraction under 1:31 in a half, I still didn’t push really hard, and I was really enjoying myself the whole time (even up the hills). I was passing people fairly regularly but I did see some people ahead who had also clearly picked up the pace because they stayed ahead.

You can see how much fun I was having in this picture from around the 12 mile mark.

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And this one from near the finish:

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As for my knee, I wrote about that last week – click here for that story.

The cycle ride back to the hotel wasn’t particularly easy, but I made it in time to shower and change before check out, and then we headed home in time for a mini Autumn street fair (with beer of course).

I would definitely take part in this event again, for several reasons:

  • Well organized (other than the t-shirt situation, and the issue with my 5k time).
  • Friendly people (runners and those volunteering/working).
  • Great overall atmosphere.

Compression socks and calf sleeves

Around the time I started to increase the lengths of my runs, when it was still cold, early enough last year, that shorts were maybe not enough to keep me warm, I came across PRO Compression socks – not knowing whether they would really help with anything, it was just as much for the fact they were long socks (given the cold weather) as for any supposed positive effects.

In all the time I’ve worn them I’ve never been sure whether they have done much for me during runs (how do you know, right?), but I did find that the compression in the hours after a long race did seem to help with recovery. Since I bought those socks I have also added some Smartwool compression calf sleeves to my collection.

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It wasn’t until this weekend that I realized how helpful compression could be. If you’ve been paying attention to my blog – a bit of a long shot that – you may have noticed I have talked about some knee pain I started experiencing last week. I was a bit concerned about running the hat trick (5k, 10k, and Half) at the Runner’s World Festival because of it.

I do intend to write a post on the weekend but need to spend some time on it to do it justice (hint: fantastic event), but for now I want to talk about my knee.

I’d rested it all week but on Friday I felt like it was hurting a bit more and I thought I’d discovered that it may be related to tight muscles in my calf so I went for a massage. I wasn’t sure whether it had really helped but it felt okay for the 5k on Saturday morning, but started hurting a little after that. I managed okay in the 10k, and then as the day wore on the pain got worse. It was bad enough I almost considered not running the half on Sunday (Mrs RunNJ wanted me to bail on it). I thought it might be fine if I took it easy. I iced it and went to bed.

The next morning all seemed well again but I still planned to take it easy. I ran the race (not taking it as easy as I planned but more about that in my next post). Now, it’s worth noting that in all the races I wore compression socks (partly because it was cold on those mornings and I wanted my legs kept a little warm). After the half marathon I went back to the hotel, had a quick shower, iced the knee again as a precaution, and, as usual after a long race, put compression sleeves on.

Later in the day I was amazed that my knee felt fine, but then it came time to get ready for bed. Within minutes of removing the compression sleeves my knee was painful again! I hadn’t thought that the compression could be preventing the pain, but this was proof. I put one back on that leg and the pain subsided again.

Since then I have been using “The Stick” and wearing a compression sleeve on that leg for most of the day (and not running), and so far so good. I think I might even run tomorrow (that’s might be too soon, but I’m a runner, and a man, so listening to reason when it comes to running is sometimes difficult – besides, I’m training for Philly and need to get some miles in after low mileage for the last couple of weeks).

After this experience I’m definitely a believer in compression for recovery, and I do have to wonder whether having the compression socks during the races helped me get through them – I’m going to err on the side of saying yes, but even if they made no difference, they certainly didn’t cause any problems.


410 miles on the Merrell Trail Glove 2

I decided it was time to get a new pair of the Merrell Trail Glove 2. Partly due to the 20% off at REI last week, but partly because I have quite a few miles on the ones I’ve had since May (over 410 miles – love the fact that with Strava you can keep track of which shoes you wore on each run otherwise I wouldn’t have a clue), and I thought it would be a good idea to have a backup pair for the marathon (only just over 4 weeks to go).

It wasn’t until I looked at the new ones side by side with the old that I realized how much wear there was (the color is mainly from my last long run along the canal towpath).

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I’m still going to use the old ones as I don’t think I’ll abandon them until they get much worse, but as of right now I’m not sure which ones to use in Philadelphia. I think if I do my final long run on the new ones that will help decide.

This weekend I will try them also at the Runner’s World Festival where I will (hopefully) be running the hat trick (5k and 10k on Saturday, and half on Sunday). I say hopefully because the problems that surfaced with my knee on Sunday (in different shoes I might add) came back when I ran on Tuesday night and I’ve not been running since to give it a chance to get better. I’m also going to get a massage soon as I suspect it may actually be caused by a particularly tight muscle right below the knee. I’m not planning to race any of the distances hard – it will be more of a fast training run, so time isn’t a goal. In fact I’ve decided to increase my workout by cycling the 5 miles to the start from the hotel (and 5 miles back again) each day. I can’t wait.

This is the link to my original review: http://www.blog.runnj.org/2013/04/25/merrell-trail-glove-2-review-and-the-rutgers-unite-half-marathon/


Running without a watch

The East Brunswick Road Races Event is one of my favorite race days for several reasons:

  1. The whole family can come along and take part in the Kids Pumpkin Dash, or the 1 mile fun run.
  2. The kids that do the dashes get a pumpkin and a table of paints to decorate it after their run.
  3. There are always lots of people I know there because it is organized by RVRR (this was the first year I have also volunteered).
  4. There is a 5k and a 10k – both start at the same time, and you can choose which one you are going to do, even as late as the 5k turnaround (there are two finishing chutes and you run into the one for the distance you covered).
  5. It’s a pleasant course – tree lined, country roads, although residential (they say it’s fairly flat “with rolling hills”, but it feels like the rolling hills dominate).
  6. The 5k/10k don’t start until 1pm, so no early Sunday morning alarm.

As I volunteered yesterday, all my race gear was packed in the car ready to change into. I helped set up the water stops, helped out for a while at registration, then headed over to see my kids run in the pumpkin dashes.

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It was then that I got ready for the race and realized I didn’t have my Garmin GPS watch with me. It didn’t bother me too much – firstly, I had no particular goal in mind and secondly, I’ve been trying not to look at it much during races this year. In previous years they’ve had a couple of people out on the course at the mile markers calling out the time so I thought I would at least have an idea of how I was doing. However, that didn’t happen this year.

After the start I soon settled into my rhythm and stuck with it despite the temptation to keep up with others – I suppose that’s another positive about this race; as the 5k starts at the same time you know there are some people who will be turning round before you, so in your mind (at least in mine anyway) there isn’t such a need to push hard at the start because you don’t always know who you’re up against. I suppose it could go the other way too if you’re inclined to try to keep up anyway, and then realize those you’ve been keeping up with are all doing the 5k.

It took a bit of getting used to not knowing my pace. I genuinely had no clue how well I was running all the way through. I was out on the road on my own for much of the time with a view of a couple of runners ahead who were pulling away at first, but after the turn it seemed as though I was gaining very slowly. I believe I paced myself well as I didn’t feel I was slowing a huge amount towards the end (although the last little hill hurt). There were times when I felt I might be pushing too hard so I eased off very slightly at those times – there’s definitely something to be said about just listening to what your body is telling you as this turned out to be a new best 10k time for me by a mere 3 seconds, but my previous fastest was on a flatter course, and comparing my time to the same race last year, I was 1 minute 22 seconds faster. Finishing time: 41:25.53 (full results here).

Overall I would definitely do this again (run without a watch that is), but I would really like to be able to look back at my mile splits to see whether I really did run it evenly. I may have to take the approach of taping over the watch screen, as I’ve seen that done before.

Thanks to Mahesha Chayapathi for these photos at the turnaround:

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Several hours after the run I had some pain in my knee – this is the first time that has happened to me. A huge part of me wants to blame my choice of shoe (whenever I’ve had problems before it’s been shoe related). I’m not sure what made me choose to run in my New Balance Minimus Road Zero when I have been so loyal to the Merrell Trail Glove 2 (and, on occasion, the Vibram Bikila) – it was probably just that I haven’t worn them much at all this year, but maybe that was a bad decision. Hopefully it’s not too bad – only 5 weeks until the Philadelphia Marathon, and this coming weekend is the hat-trick (5k, 10k, half marathon) at the Runner’s World Festival weekend.


Unusual run

soccersoccerrun

These are maps of part of my run last night. Apparently I went a bit crazy on one part.

I had covered 3 miles before this happened. The section in question took quite a long time but covered over a mile and a half.

Any ideas what happened?

No? Maybe I should tell you – running through the park I heard my name being called. There was a group of people including a few friends from RVRR. They were about to start a game of pick up soccer (I’d rather use the word football but as I live in the USA now, I have to make concessions sometimes). I got talked into it despite knowing I wasn’t a particularly good player. Still, I had a great time and even managed to somehow score the deciding goal.

The problem was, this was harder on me than the 22.4 mile run I did this past weekend.