Running

Review: 2017 Akron Marathon

Originally shared over at BibRave.com, the following is my review of the 2017 Akron Marathon – with some slight alterations here and there. Enjoy!

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OVERALL: First and foremost, this race – nay, the entire Akron Marathon Race Series – is incredibly well organized. I can not express how amazing the organizers were at communicating information, updating their web presence, ensuring that the race series app was ready to go – the list goes on and on. It seemed like every little thing you could think of was thought of and planned for.

EXPO: The expo was a streamlined event for sure. Runners collected their bibs and “swag bag” in the first of two large convention halls, before moving on to take the obligatory photo with their bib & the race backdrop. After this, participants moved on to the vendor side of the expo. SO MANY VENDORS! Great showing from a TON of upcoming races, local universities, non-profit organizations, and so on. Near the end of the serpentine path that wound through the expo was where runners collected their official race gear, which included a 1/4 zip finisher pullover and lightweight running hat for the marathoners. Just being honest, I’ve worn my pullover every chance I had since race day!

BONUS: Three words: KARAFREAKIN‘ – GOUCHER. I had the opportunity to meet and chat with one of my favorite runners of all time. She’s incredibly humble and does so much for the sport. Hands down, one of the absolute highlights of the weekend!

RACE DAY: 
Parking – There’s a fair amount of parking, set up by which event you are running (full, half, or relay). My wife and I drove past the first marathon-specific garage (a block from my corral) and had no problem accessing the next one, only two blocks from the start line. Easy in, easy out.

Start Line Area – Unlike the two prior events in the race series, the Akron Marathon holds to a strict corral system. This ensures that runners start where their ability level dictates! Minus some minor bottlenecking getting INTO the corrals, moving around the start area was very easy. Lots of music and (thankfully) an abundance of porta-potties! Race started on time without incident and we headed out!

The Course – thriving with spectators at all points, offering boundless encouragement, cheers, smiles, and hi-fives! However, the course is also a challenging one, with varying elevation changes throughout – especially in the second half. There are definitely more significant hills on this course than what I am used to in the relative flatness that is the Columbus, OH metro area. This fact alone had me quite nervous about how this marathon was going to pan out! Thankfully, coming around a corner at just before mile 24, I realized that the 16-weeks of training had put me in unfamiliar territory – coming VERY close to cracking 4 hours. Ultimately, I finished in 4:06 – setting a nearly 40 minute PR. I think it’s safe to say I was ZIPPING (nod to the Univ. of Akron there) through Akron!

The Finish – First off, you finish the race on the home field of the Akron Rubber Ducks – a minor league affiliate of the Cleveland Indians – which is pretty darn awesome.

Canal Park in Akron, OH on race day

Echoing my previous statements about the crowd support – there is an AMAZING crowd to cheer you in at the end! Always makes for a great feeling. Navigate away from the finish line, snag up your medal, and head over to the post-race party – or Finisher’s Festival – which was AWESOME. Live music on stage, beer, pizza & other food all out on the outfield. Can’t ask for too much more than that. On your way OFF the field, you can snag your SERIES FINISHER medal (and medal hanger) if you’ve completed all three events (1-National Interstate 8k & 1 Mile, 2-Goodyear Half Marathon & 10K, 3-Akron Marathon, Half Marathon, & Team Relay).

Walking away from the finish with my wife, I was racking my brain to identify anything I could critique about this race – and I couldn’t! Almost two weeks removed from the race, I still can’t. If you’re looking for a well-organized, friendly, and challenging event – come check out the Akron Marathon. I truly believe that you will NOT be disappointed. Thank you, Akron Marathon, for a great event and an even better race series!

 

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Review: Spring ShokzBox

It feels as if it was just yesterday that I began participating in #bibchat – a weekly Twitter-based discussion group focused on running, hosted by the folks over at BibRave.com. Over the course of my interaction, I’ve had the opportunity to converse with some really awesome runners, learn about new running opportunities, and become aware of some amazing running gear I knew nothing about.

One particular piece of gear (er, brand) that had been popping up on accounts I’ve followed recently is something called AfterShokz. This company makes a different take on the wireless headphone, sitting the main sound output OUTSIDE of the ear – rather than in it – enabling the user to still hear what is going on around them. I got a chance to see a few pairs of these headphones in person a few weeks back when I ran into a few of the BibRave Pros (@daddydidyouwin and @mmaynard551) before the start of the Glass City Marathon in Toledo. Their positive take on these only helped fuel my curiosity.

Naturally, when it was announced that AfterShokz was going to put out their Spring ShokzBox, I was interested. This box is essentially a grouping of some very popular running gear at a very good price. So, I jumped at the opportunity and splurged on a box for myself.

It arrived about two weeks ago. Having now had an opportunity to put the items inside to use, here’s my review of the Spring ShokzBox.

Overall

The biggest and overarching big win of this box, without a doubt, is the value. Anyone who says that running is an inexpensive experience is a liar. Adding up the approximate retail prices of the products reviewed below, the total cost to buy these products individually (before any taxes & shipping) comes to right around $280. The Spring ShokzBox itself with all these items inside is $199.95 – with no shipping cost. Even someone who got an F in Algebra can figure out that the ShokzBox this is a great deal.

Products

AfterShokz Trekz Titanium Headphones (retail $129.95)

I genuinely cannot say enough good things about these headphones. After finally getting to see them in person in Toledo before the GCM, I was sold on the idea. They sit VERY comfortably over the ears and they stay in place – no bouncing, no movement of any kind.The sound output is fantastic and I really can hear everything going on around me. I run primarily outdoors, so being aware of what is going on around me is crucial. An added bonus with these headphones is that I don’t feel as I’m yelling when I still have them on – as is the case with most in-ear or over-ear configurations. If you don’t already have these, get them NOW.

AfterShokz Buff (retail ~$18)

This one I’ve been skeptical about for a while, but was also very eager to see what all the fuss is about. Turns out, it’s pretty darn handy. First off, it’s made from moisture-managing microfiber fabric – the closest thing I can compare it to would be a DriFit-esque type material – which means it is very lightweight and keeps you dry. It is also wind resistant which can keep you protected from windburns during your workouts. The big takeaway here is that it can be worn more than 12 different ways, making it very easy to create your own look while still being comfortable. I prefer the traditional headband look, but I’m sure that will evolve. The only downside to THIS particular Buff (if there actually is one at all) is that it is not available for individual purchase and is just part of this ShokzBox. However, there are PLENTY of traditional Buffs in a variety of designs over at Buff’s website.

BibRave Trucker Hat (retail $22.95)

I’m not one for hats on a daily basis, nor when I run, so this is actually the one thing in the box that I can honestly say I have not used when running. However, if I did wear it while running, I’m pretty sure that I’d comfortable. This trucker style hat boasts a wicking headband on the inside and generous mesh panels around the side and back, which would keep me both cool and shaded. If I’m being completely honest, I like it because it’s orange – sue me. Perhaps it’ll make it out on one of my runs in the future, just not yet.

Orange Mud Transition Seat Wrap (retail $39.95)

Since I drove to my running location today, I actually put this one to use (finally!). There really isn’t a whole lot of fanfare to this one besides the fact that it is multifunction – it can be used as a car seat cover, a towel, and/or as a cover/wrap for an impromptu wardrobe change. If you are using it for the latter, it does have a built-in “belt” of sorts to keep it in place. Comes in a variety of colors (mine is blue) and is fairly soft to the touch. Sure beats a regular beach towel for the driver’s seat and it fits better too.

Brilliant Reflective Safety Strips (retail $9.95)

No fanfare here. Simply put, these are removable and reusable reflective strips, designed to enhance visibility of the wearer in lower-light conditions. Incredibly smart idea and I wish EVERYONE who goes for a run/bike ride/etc after the sun goes down had these.

Knuckle Lights (retail $59.99)

On that same note about nighttime safety, carrying some kind of light source during a night run is essential. Using a traditional flashlight or even the light on a smartphone isn’t very efficient for one’s activity, as one would have to hold the light source at an uncomfortable angle. A headlamp is a great solution, but the down side is an often itchy or uncomfortable headband. Solution? Knuckle Lights. These handheld lights wrap around the base of the fingers with a flexible strap. This ultimately utilizes the natural way the hands close when we run to A) hold the lights and B) put the light exactly where it is needed. The lights themselves are INCREDIBLY bright and has three modes (high beam, low beam, and strobe). If you’re running at night and you don’t have these yet – GET THEM.

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When looking at the items in this particular ShokzBox, I’m hit with a trifecta of themes: comfortable, convenient, and safe. Everything in this box has value and will absolutely have a place in my plethora of running gear (well, maybe not the hat right away, but it’s still cool). Thank you AfterShokz for putting together such a great deal!


Get your ShokzBox while they are still available over at AfterShokz.

Going for Two

Click HERE to learn more about Nationwide Children’s Hospital and to support me as 2015 Columbus Marathon Children’s Champion.


Over the last few weeks, I’ve been debating what I want to do next in regard to my running. Should I stick to the 5k circuit? What about a marathon? I can tell you now that I hope to run a few more 5k’s this year and maybe even move up a few more spots in the Wayne Healthcare Challenge. However – and as I’m sure you may have guessed by now – I have also answered the question about taking on a marathon as I have officially registered for the Nationwide Children’s Hospital Columbus Marathon this upcoming October.

So let’s be honest – the headline for this post should read more like “Going for (26point)Two“.

Anyhow, before I touch on this year’s endeavor, here’s some backstory for you:

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In the spring of 2004, I lost my father to a very severe form of brain cancer (more on that here) and I was struggling pretty bad. I was struggling with my academics, I was struggling socially, I was struggling emotionally. At any given point in 2004, one could say that I was a first-class passenger on (or potentially the captain of) the Hot Mess Express. The only places or times that I felt I had control and where I wasn’t struggling (as much) was when I was playing music or running.

By the time fall of 2004 came around, I had changed my major to one with a sports focus. This meant I needed physical education credits. Thankfully, BGSU offered both Jogging which was taught by an experienced coach, runner, and all around great person. Running – exactly what I needed. She and I figured out very quickly that “jogging” wasn’t going to cut it for me – I needed more “running” – and we made it work quite well. As a result, my instructor nudged me to take on a greater running challenge. Her intent was not for me to specifically go after the marathon, but hey – go big or go home, right?

So, I that it would be cool to sign up and participate in the 2004 Columbus Marathon – my first marathon ever. What a day that was. My training wasn’t great and my performance wasn’t much better. There was quite a bit of both running and walking throughout the day, but I am proud to say that I did, in fact, run approximately 20 of the 26.2 miles and finished in 4:49:55. It wasn’t pretty and I was pretty well useless for the next 36 hours, but damnit I finished.

***

Running is my sport. It has helped me connect with new people, taught me discipline, and (obviously) has helped me cope with some of the not-so-pleasant parts of life. Running has helped me to remain healthy and able to participate in a wide range of activities, including collegiate marching band. Running is my sport and it is high time for me to get back to it.

So, I’m going to run the Columbus Marathon for the second time. The difference is that this time around I want to do MUCH better. I have my 18-week training schedule (Thanks, Hal Higdon) plotted out along with some supplemental workouts. My wife, Tammi, and I do what we can to cook at home and eat healthy, but let’s face it – cheat days happen. Ultimately, I would love to run a sub 4-hour marathon. Hell, I’d love to run well enough to qualify for Boston. Honestly though, I just want to do three things: run all 26.2 miles and beat my previous time.

The third thing I want to accomplish is meeting my fundraising goal as a Children’s Champion. Nationwide Children’s Hospital works day in and day out to cure, mend, comfort and save an estimated one million children who will walk through the hospital doors this year. I am seeking to raise $1000 to help support Nationwide Children’s Hospital and simply ask for your support in working to meet that goal. Your contribution will help children everywhere through the life-saving research and care done right here in Columbus.

Click HERE to learn more about Nationwide Children’s Hospital and to support me as 2015 Columbus Marathon Children’s Champion.

90 in 90 – To Be Continued…

On Thursday (or day 60), I was able to log two more miles at a pace of 8:25/mile toward my personal challenge of running 90 miles in 90 days. This two mile run had put the number of miles completed at 61. I was ahead of schedule again!

And then this happened: Hello foot, have you met the couch leg? Allow me to introduce you. 

Yep. Inadvertently slammed my left foot – my 4th & 5th toes to be exact – into one of the legs of our couch. I’m no stranger to stubbing my toes, but this time was different. It was all over pretty quick, with me hobbling over to an open spot on the floor, laying down, and thinking (and saying) some rather unpleasant things. The worst part was that I was pretty sure I heard something snap or crack when it all happened. Last night’s treatment of said injury consisted of taping my toes together (“buddy taping” or “buddy splint”), elevated my foot and applied some ice, and then went to sleep hoping that it would be fine the next morning – nothing more than a little sore and bruised.

Nope – not so much.

Remember that snap or crack sound I though I heard? Well, I definitely fractured (broke) my little toe, which has become my first ever broken bone in 30 years, 11 months, and 23 days of life. For those of you playing at home, that’s just a week short of my 31st birthday. Ugh.

What does this mean for my 90 in 90? Well, it means that the remaining 29 days and any miles I would have accumulated during them will have to be postponed for about 8-10 weeks. No running until closer to the end of August. I’m very bummed out about this, especially since I was in a position to get a comfortable lead of miles over days.

So for now, and with only 29 miles and 29 days left, I’ll just hit the pause button, save my progress, and come back to conquer the end of my 90 in 90 challenge another day.

90 Miles in 90 Days: Update 2

With my upcoming wedding to Tammi now only 33 days away and since I haven’t updated in a while, I figured it would be a good time to post an update on my personal challenge of running 90 miles in 90 days.

Since the last update, I was able to stay on pace fairly well. Every day or every other day, I’d get out there and run maybe 2 miles at minimum just to stay on pace. However, then I took a personal vacation across the country and while I fully intended to run during this time, I slacked. I dropped off pace and it’s been a gradual up-hill climb to cut down the, at one time, almost 10 miles that I was off pace.

So, here’s the update: I’m officially back on pace.

Tonight, I completed a two mile run that puts me at 57 miles over 57 days (or 63% complete). My average distance is hovering around 2.5 to 3 miles per run, with my average pace per is right around 9:45/mile. Running a little further per run as of late and just a hint faster on average. I’d say that’s progress, even if it’s slow going.

Keep in mind, I had said the following in my last update:

“…this goal could be completed by running one mile, every day, for 90 days. Personally, I would much rather get ahead and stay ahead.”

So yeah, I dropped off pace and fell behind, but I’m right back in it and set to get ahead again. Lesson here? Simple. Just because you fall behind, doesn’t mean your goal is out of reachit just means playing catch up will suck. And catching up DOES suck, but it’s not impossible.

Going for 90 miles in 90 days might not be the biggest goal in the world, but it’s MY goal. And with just over 30 days left to go, I can’t wait to crush it in the next few weeks.

Sidenote / reminder: if you need motivation to start running or to keep running, get on Twitter (or Instagram) and search #nikeplus and keep up with my journey to 90 by searching #90in90. 

90 Miles in 90 Days: Update #1

Two weeks ago, as a result of being inspired – or kind of freaked out – by being 3 months out from my upcoming wedding and not really in the shape I want to be, I set a personal goal to complete 90 miles in 90 days. That’s it. Whatever else comes with it – changes in diet, workout routine, etc – is secondary. I’ve made many attempts over the last year or so to re-establish my running routine and this (so far) is working. With that said, and since today is 14 days in, I thought it would be a good time for an initial progress update.

Keep in mind, this goal could be completed by running one mile, every day, for 90 days. Personally, I would much rather get ahead and stay ahead.

With that said, I’ve completed 18 miles over the last two weeks, which means I’m 20% of the way to my goal and 4 miles ahead of schedule. What helps make that stat even better is that I’ve only run 8 times over 14 days with an average distance of 2.25 miles/run with an average pace of 9:50/mile. Any run around 2 miles has been completed in under 20 minutes, and any run around 3 miles right at the 30 minute mark. All good things that can only get better.

Thank you to those who have cheered me on in person or online. It’s always great to get that cheering noise from the Nike+ app! In addition to tracking via Nike & RunKeeper, I also upload progress after every run to Facebook, Twitter, and/or Instagram – usually with the standard “#dropNgimme20” that I borrowed from the amazing Malinda Matney as well as from my wife-to-be, Tammi.

Sidenote: if you need motivation to start running or to keep running, get on Twitter (or Instagram) and search #nikeplus. There is an amazing community of runners out there. 

I’m not going to be winning any 5K’s any time soon. However, I am rebuilding my endurance and running on a more regular basis. While it would be great to crank out a sub-20 minute 3 mile like I used to, that’s not the primary goal.

The goal is 90 in 90 – and I’m on my way.

90 Miles – 90 Days

This past weekend officially marked 3 months, or 90 days, until Tammi and I get married.

Holy crap. It feels like just yesterday we were in Cleveland getting engaged.

Don’t get me wrong though – it’s not the wedding planning logistics that has me concerned – we’re actually ahead of schedule in a lot of ways. It is, however, the personal wellness part of the equation on my part that has me feeling much more like Grumpy Cat. Early last fall, I had hit a fantastic milestone – I had dropped approximately 20 pounds and was back in a good place with my running and workout routine. That was then. Today, I’m back up those 20 pounds and pretty much lost all the progress I had made throughout 2013 on my running.

So, yesterday I decided to go for a run. While I was out I decided to set a short-term personal goal to make some positive change in my own wellness. That goal?

Complete (at least) 90 miles in 90 days. That’s it.

The plan is just to run – or as Tammi and I often say – “get dem miles”. I’ll use the  Nike+ (during runs) and RunKeeper apps to track my mileage, duration, and so on. While the primary objective is 90 in 90, I’ll also keep track of food intake via the LoseIt! app to track any changes in weight.

 

That’s my goal – what’s yours?

Update: As of today, I’m at 4 miles.