"I have arrived. I am home. In the here. In the now. I am solid. I am free. In the ultimate I dwell." --Thich Nhat Hanh

Friday, October 24, 2014

Triple Crown or Runner’s World Half and Festival 2014

Oh! So this is Instagram!
Not finishing a race is always hard, but not starting one is even worse! All that training, anticipation down the drain. After last years Runner’s World Half DNS, I vowed to come back this year and set a PR in all 3 races.

Amy and I were once again signed up for the 3rd annual Runner’s World Half and Festival. It is an event very close to our house, and it is a great opportunity to get away for the weekend. Bethlehem is especially nice this time of year with beautiful fall foliage colors, chill in the air, and for the third year in a row amazing running weather. I am not sure how Bart Yasso does it, but he’s got a good weather hotline. RW Festival is also a great time for us to catch up with old friends, meet some new friends and learn even more about running.
Niko and Una ready to race
What made this year very special was Friday night’s kid races. After watching the Kid race for the past 2 years, we knew this was something that Niko would enjoy this year. Thus, he was signed up to run 1/4 mile race in the 2-5 age category. This would be Niko’s first race! He was beyond excited to be running his first race. At the very last moment our 2 year old was signed up as well and she “ran” too, while talking on her dora “pone” most of the race. Runner’s World does an amazing job with these kid races. From the warmup band before the race, to t-shirts and medals, everything is super organized. What makes it even better is the cost! FREE! They do it right. Niko and Una both had a blast, and he now wants to do more races. Older kids that ran 1/2 and 1 mile races were both super impressive and fast. Incredible.
Proud of his medal. It is hanging on the wall with all daddy medals now!
As we said goodbye to the kids post dinner as they went home with family, Amy and I headed to the hotel bar for some pre-race fueling on local Fegley’s beer. We were both very excited to watch some amazing karaoke performances at the bar. I won’t spoil it. Just head to the Comfort Suites in Bethlehem on Friday nights. Bring your A game!

Saturday morning came soon enough. Free hotel breakfast is always an added benefit and after fueling we started our warm up jog to the start line at the ArtQuest building which was less than a mile from our hotel. In the past 2 years we’ve stayed at various places, but this was for sure our best location yet. I am not going to write about how much I love the start line experience again. You can read more about it here! In summary, one of the best start line experiences out there.
Ready to go
We lined up further up near the start line for the 5K as last year we were too far back for some reason. The race started out fast! New course and less hills on the 5K course meant a pretty fast pace for both Amy and I. I was feeling great from the get go, and as I made up my mind before the race, decided to suck it up and run as fast as I can. I trusted into the work I put in this year, and I know I wanted that PR. At some point I lost Amy, but I pushed on, and crossed the finish line in about 22 minutes, which was my PR by several minutes. I don’t think I ever raced a 5K that hard before. In fact, I don’t really race many 5Ks as I find them too fast and short. Just few short years ago, running a 30 min 5K was incredible to me. I guess all that hard work pays off. Interesting.
Showing off
About an hour later, we were back in the corral lining up for the 10K. Feeling a bit sore from the fast 5, I was determined to push this one as well. Last year, at this place I ran my fastest 10K, but since that time I’ve ran faster in training. I knew I could push it and get a PR if everything went as planned. Well, what do you know, as soon as we started running I had to pee. I guess I over hydrated in between the races. I knew that about .5 miles into the race there would be porta-a-pottys, and I just decided to stop and go. Quick 20-30 seconds and I was out running. Amy had moved up in that time, but shortly I started seeing her as we were heading up a hill. I caught up to her on one of the hills and went ahead again. While this race was hard, I was feeling pretty comfortable and confident the whole way. Even with the pee break I broke my 10K PR by several minutes. 2 races down and hard work for the day was done.
Two down - 1 to go
We grabbed our stuff and just headed back to the hotel to get showers and lunch. Few days before the race we found this super cool little place right around the corner called Deja Brew. This place has some very nice lunch offerings, and an incredible Nutella Latte. Highly recommended for your next visit to Bethlehem. I knew from before that I would not be attending any seminars at the expo this year, more on that later, but I still wanted to go and check out the vendors and say hello to the Altra people.

Since I am an Altra Ambassador this year, I spend a lot of time communicating with Altra over social media and emails, but I have not had a chance to meet some of them in person yet. This was a perfect opportunity for some face time. Living on the east coast you always forget how west coast folk are way more laid back. Makes me want to move west. We capped off our Saturday night by having a lovely dinner at the Brew Works, a local brewery restaurant. We have been wanting to go to this place for the last 3 years!!! Steak before races works.
With Brian from Altra post half
Sunday weather forecast promised chilly winds and colder temperatures. And it delivered. It was not as cold as it was last year, but definitely a big difference from Saturday. Regardless, a warm up run to the start line meant that we would stay get warmed up and get there faster at the same time. Too birds with one stone.  The half-marathon start line is always swarming with people, but the lines are never too long. You can see how a 3rd year event keeps improving every year. After all the usual deeds, we found our spot in the corral near the 1:40 pacer. Looking at the pace band the day before, I knew that those paces would be a bit hard to hit. I would have to run faster than the pace from races on Saturday. Regardless, we decided to start there and see how it goes.

As the air horn blast went off, we started at a pretty brisk pace. Legs were feeling a bit sore, but kinks were getting worked out. Almost immediately I noticed that the pacer was flying at the 7 min pace. It was way too fast. I started to fall back on purpose while maintaining a decent pace. After crossing the 1 mile line 15-20 seconds faster than predicted, I decided that I didn't need him any more. The course this year was “flatter and faster” (it was not) than last year, but the first part was definitely hillier then the latter part of the course. I knew that if I kept on this crazy pace with this dude, it would not end well, so I made my own pace that would put me ahead of my half-marathon PR.  The course was beautiful even tho a bit harder than in the years past. I managed to snag a lovely skirt at around mile 8 that I wore proudly for rest of the race. Even with some head winds, especially on the uphills (go figure, it always happens that way, doesn’t it?), I kept a hard pace the whole way and it paid off with my fastest half-marathon yet. It turned out that the 1:40 pacer really came to the finish line almost 2 minutes early, so a wise decision was made not to follow him.
Post Half at the Altra booth
Once again, Runner’s World Half and Festival has been a great experience. From the swag to the races, everything was done perfectly. That Bart Yasso certainly knows how to put on a great event. It also gave me a chance to meet and hang out with some super nice Altra people. I am very proud and excited to be part of the team and to keep spreading the Altra message here in the East. Amy and I always have wonderful time in Bethlehem, and we will certainly be back next year.
Altra folks
While the weekend was great, there were few minor things that I did not enjoy. Every year so far Runner’s World has done a wonderful job of putting together some very interesting seminars, and showing some great running movies. Every year, until this year. I was rather surprised to look at the list of offerings only to see all the same seminars with same people, and no movies. According to RWHalf Facebook crew, the survey of runners showed that movies were not wanted. Ok, that is fine, I suppose I can live with that. However, I am still confused why all the seminars were the same as in the past. I agree that they all provide great content for all runners but not 3 years in the row. There were plenty of different things from year 1 to year 2. Putting together 1 or 2 new seminars would do wonders and would keep returning runners interested year after year. This is just a minor criticism and the only criticism of this great event.
Overall times
Both Amy and I rocked our Altra Paradigms for every race this weekend. Very cushy for all those road pounding miles, Paradigms delivered. While I was on the fence before whether to buy into really cushy shoes, I am certainly happy with these.
Fellow ambassador Tiffany post half
Next up on the chopping block is the last official race of the year, the Philadelphia Marathon. I have had horrible luck with road marathons, and I am really hoping that this is the year that luck changes. If not, I am sticking to the trails!

PS. For once, I really like the professional pictures of me from these races, but I refuse to pay the outrageous fee. Can someone please tell me or prove to me that these companies wouldn't sell more if they charged less?

Go forth and run!

With Brian and Tiffany

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