"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

Sunday, October 25, 2015

Grand Slam at Runner's World Weekend

October is slowly turning into my favorite time of year. Temperatures are just cool enough to make running pleasant on a daily basis. Leaves are changing colors and slowly starting to fall off. The fall colors out on the trails are just incredible. One of the best places in PA to see the fall beauty is the small city of Bethlehem. Our yearly pilgrimage to 4th annual Runner's World Festival did not disappoint.

Trail Race
This year, Amy was invited to be one of the Runner's World influencers. She left on Thursday to join several other bloggers from around the country. I took care of the children and headed up to Bethlehem on Friday afternoon for the first inaugural trail race. New addition this year in the RW line up of races was the 3.8 trail race that took place at the South Mountain disk golf course. I got a chance to preview the course with Bart Yasso earlier in the year and was very excited to take part in this event. Together with the 5k, 10K, and Half Marathon, this race rounded the total number of miles for the weekend at 26.2. Clever work by Mr. Yasso. I met Amy at the bib pickup location on the South Mountain. The weather was nice and cool but not too cold. I had no idea what to expect for this race, and the weekend in general considering that Amy and I just ran over 70 miles weekend before at the TARC 100. I knew I wanted to head out faster in the beginning to avoid getting stuck in the conga line. We made our way down to the start line together with 250 other folks and after short intro by Bart we were off.

Trail Running Clinic with Golden and Brian
Even though Amy and I started together, I slowly pulled ahead almost immediately. Due to out back nature of several sections I would see Amy several times, and was able to give her additional motivation telling her where she was in the field. The course was very technical with a lot of exposed rocks and roots, but I was able to keep a pretty decent pace for the duration. I did end up hiking the last hill before the finish line, as it was insanely steep. The last quarter of a mile bombs down the hill into the finish line giving you a great view of Bethlehem below. I crossed the finish line in 33:31 which was good enough for 23 place overall. I was extremely happy with my race, but knew that next few days might be tough after running all out. We stuck around after the race for a great Trail Running clinic given by Golden Harper and Brian Beckstead, both Altra Running Co-Founders. It was great to reconnect with Altra folks again this year in person. After a quick shower at the hotel, Amy and I went out to dinner at the brewery to properly fuel for the weekend. I am almost amazed at how many great restaurants are in Bethlehem.
Grand Slammers
I offered to help at the Altra booth for the weekend, which meant a super early wake up on Saturday. The 5k did not start until 8am, so I spend several hours working the Altra booth prior to the race. Amy brought me some much needed fuel, and I was ready to race. We took our time to warm up for this race and took our place in the starting coral. This was not the weekend for PRs but none-the-less, I wanted to give it my best shot considering my legs were feeling fairly decent. After the national anthem we were off. All courses are Bethlehem are fairly hilly, however after training this summer for crazy mountain races, the hills did not feel that bad at all. I was trying to keep a steady pace and not kill myself, considering I had to run a 10k in few hours as well. It felt good to go faster on the road again, and I got through the finish line in 23:52. Not too bad considering.
5K
There was no time to fool around. After getting some fuel and chatting with folks it was time to go back out for the 10K. Again, Amy and I started together but shortly got separated. It was more of the same in this race. Trying to keep a pace and not go too fast. The first mile was bit of a struggle, loosening up the muscles, but all of a sudden I felt pretty good and went for it. Up and down and back to the finish line in 51:01. Stupid 1 second. Its funny how your brain wants to break these imaginary time goals. Last weekend I was worrying about hours, and here I am worrying about 1 second. Funny how that works. We were both very happy with our times and excited for Sunday and half marathon. I spent rest of the Saturday working the Altra booth and having a great time talking shoes and running to all kinds of people. This was probably my best day at this festival in 4 years. Saturday was capped off with a great dinner at Thai Thai II in Bethlehem. Such an incredible place. Not to be missed, especially if it is your birthday.
10K
Sunday morning was a lot cooler than the day before. Both, Amy and I were super tired, and just did not feel like running at all. I guess running all those miles in the last week were taking their toll. I felt like going for a nap in the starting coral. We lined up near the 2 hour pacing group. I had no idea how my legs would feel, but I figured I can push it and break 2 hours for the half. The half is the biggest race of the weekend by far. Soon enough we were racing. Again, the first mile was a bit of a slug fest, but after that I started feeling better and better. I was very surprised that my legs still felt good enough to keep pushing. Miles ticked by and soon I was catching up to 1:55 pace group. Sweet. Push on. The half has some big hills in the first 7 miles, and they were definitely taking a toll on some people. I was happy to keep pushing up the hills. Next thing I know I was watching up to 1:50 pace group as well. Perhaps I could go and get 1:45 as well. Alas, it was not meant to be. Legs weren't that fresh after all. I was able to push for the 1:47:31 finish, which was my 2nd fastest half. Last year at RW was my half marathon PR. I am yet to run an official half on a flatter course. I might give it a shot next year. Amy crossed the finish line under 2 hours as well.
The Half
The weekend mission was accomplished. We both ran the Grand Slam and managed to get great times in all races. I ended up with 3:35:55 for all 4 races. Our legs were hurting at the end of this weekend, but it was worth it after such a crappy race at the TARC 100. We both needed this weekend to have fun and run fast and get some bling bling. Runner's World Festival is definitely my favorite time of the year. I am yet to walk away disappointed. Bart and the RW crew have created something very unique, and we can be so lucky that is so close to our home. 4 races, seminars, free pictures, great swag and people from all over the place cannot be beat! Amy and I are already excited for next year for another Grand Slam and another great weekend with team Altra.

Go forth and run.

Few extra pics:
One of the seminars

Walking to the half start line

Finish strong


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