one Man of a Certain Age's journey to a healthier lifestyle

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Welcome to my fitness blog. I started running in early 2012, having set my sights on the Walt Disney World Half Marathon which I ran in January 2013. (You can read about that in my other blog). I intend to update this blog weekly with training progress and run reports. Please follow and join this blog (links below) for updates. If you want to share please feel free to, there are links to share via Facebook or Twitter below as well. You can also follow me on twitter. And please comment letting me know what you think!

My upcoming races: My recent races:
NYCRuns Central Park Half Marathon February 23, 2014 2013 Year in Review
Rock 'n' Roll USA Marathon - DC March 15, 2014  

My Blogs Thompson Family Web (Travel, Disney and fun) The Runner of a Certain Age Blog

Wednesday, October 16, 2013

Rock 'n' Roll Brooklyn 10K

I had the pleasure of running the Rock 'n' Roll Brooklyn 10K last weekend - and what made it particularly fun for me was that I was able to run it with my daughter Natalie who was home from college that weekend. Nat had not been feeling well - with an upper respiratory infection - and we weren't sure that she would be able to do the race but in the end she was able to do it.

It was a beautiful day in Brooklyn on Saturday - starting off brisk and getting warmer as the day progressed. The race was being held in Prospect Park which is one of the most beautiful areas in Brooklyn. The race was scheduled for 7:30 AM. Our house is a bit more than an hour from Prospect Park so we left a little after 5:00. The drive to Brooklyn was fast and uneventful. I had gone online and found a parking structure not far from the race start, but when we got there we could see there was plenty of street parking so we just did that. I had intended for us to take the subway about 2 stops but in the end we just decided to walk. In retrospect what I would have done would have been to go the race start and find the closest street parking. I'm sure that if we had arrived later it would have been tougher to find street parking, but when we arrived about 6:30 there was plenty of parking.

As we walked through Brooklyn Nat commented on how she would love to live in Brooklyn after she graduates. I commented that her mother and I would love it if she moved to Brooklyn, to which she replied "Maybe I'll move here after you retire and move someplace else". Nice.

Pre race:

The walk turned out to be longer than I expected - about 25 minutes. Still it was a beautiful day and a nice walk so we enjoyed it. That said, by the time we got to the race start we didn't have much time before we needed to head over to the starting corrals. In fact, we pretty much just had enough time to pick up Nat's bib and drop our stuff off at the bag check. As I had discovered when I ran the Providence Half Marathon, the Rock 'n' Roll folks did a very good job of organizing things. Bib pickup for Nat and the bag check was no problem at all. I had picked up my packet a few days earlier in Manhattan, and the situation there was equally well run. Unfortunately in both cases there was not enough time to check out vendors and such - when I went to pick up my packet in the city it was in the middle of the work day and I needed to get back.

Corrals and race start:

Much like the Providence race there were many corrals with several hundred people in each. I'm not sure how many corrals there were - but I'd say at least 10. And each corral appeared to be much larger than what was at Providence. In fact, I thought there were a lot more runners at this race - in fact I even tweeted about this. I was very surprised later when I looked at the results to see there were only a few hundred more. Also I noticed that they didn't seem to be making as big a "deal" out of each corral start - or maybe they just stopped caring by the time they got back to us in corral 8. All that said, the race start was well organized and went smoothly.

The Course:

Running through Prospect Park is an absolute joy. Beyond a doubt one of the nicest courses I have ever run on. There is a wonderful mix of urban and park-like settings all within very short distances of each other. You are running along a crowded, busy street lined with brownstone apartment buildings one minute, then down a tree-lined avenue the next minute. Add to this a liberal sprinkling of statues and, of course, the magnificent arch at Grand Army Plaza and you have a truly unique and spectacular course.

I do have two complaints - one that Rock 'n' Roll has control over and one that they likely don't. First, especially as compared to Providence, there seemed to me to be a dearth of bands along the route. I seem to recall in Providence that you were rarely without the sound of music, while in this race there really seemed to be very few bands. The organizers promised 6 music stops but I can honestly only remember 3 bands. Maybe 4. But I could be mistaken. Also, the crowd support on this race was not meager - it was nearly non-existent. There was pretty much nobody along the course except for a few spots. (One of my favorites was a kid of about 4 yelling out of his apartment window.) At the end of the race there were a bunch of people, but pretty much nobody along the course. Perhaps there were some regulations regarding this? I don't know...

The Race:

Nat and I talked about the race about a week before running it and decided we would try to finish in less than 1:10. Unfortunately, as I mentioned earlier, Nat was not feeling well so we took it easy. Still, we managed to finish in 1:15. We kept pace with each other throughout the entire race. I had to remind myself to slow my pace down from time to time since I knew that Nat was not 100%. Funny thing, once the ending gate was in sight, Nat suddenly really picked up her pace. She later told me that she wanted to go a lot faster at the end but felt guilty about leaving me behind. I told her i wish I had known that she wanted to go faster - I would have been right there with her!

Post race:

As with the Providence race, the post race area was well organized There were bananas, bagels, chocolate milk, water and Gatorade. There was entertainment in the form of a band playing as well as a (very popular) area where you could get beer (including one free beer for every runner). I just can't bring myself to have a beer at 9:00 in the morning, although there were plenty of other folks who had no issue with this. Picking up from bag check was also easy - although I had a hard time finding it (the bag check had not moved, I just could not remember where it was). One minor issue was for those, like Nat, who had picked up their bib that morning. Shirt pickup was after the race and the shirt pickup area was a bit disorganized with very long lines. This situation could have easily been rectified with signs indicating where the men's and women's shirts could be found. Not a big deal, still a bit annoying.


So we come to that subject that we all know is the only thing any of you reading this really care about, right? How's the bling? Is the shirt a good one? The answer is - in keeping with what seems to be the norm for Rock 'n' Roll - very good. The shirt is a very nice tech shirt with very cool graphics. And the finisher's medal is a good, heavy, substantial medal with a really nice design featuring the arch at the Grand Army Plaza. Again Rock 'n' Roll does not disappoint.


This is an awesome race. In particular, it's nice to run a 10k where you get a shirt and medal that is comparable to what you would get running a longer race. I absolutely LOVED running this race! Nat and I had a fantastic time! My only major suggestion to the organizers would be to add more music to the course. If they do that then this will be a nearly perfect event. Will I do it again? Absolutely! Don't be surprised to see me out there again next year!

Note: Completely unrelated to her not feeling well before the race, Nat's foot started bothering her after the race. It got so bad we took her in for an x-ray. No bone damage thankfully, but soft tissue damage that probably came from a combination of riding her bike at school and running. Bummer. But she'll get better and she told me that she definitely plans to start running again as soon as she's better.

Sunday, October 6, 2013

Double your fun

Well it's been a busy week or two! Before I get into the main part of the blog, I just have to mention that today I finalized the last piece of the puzzle for my trip to Tulsa OK to run in my first full marathon, the Route 66 Marathon. I will be flying into Tulsa on Saturday November 23, arriving early enough to spend some time at the runner's expo. I will leave in the evening of Monday the 25th. I also signed up for the Rock 'n Roll USA Marathon in Washington DC - the first race in 2014 I've signed up for.

Also, anyone who has been reading the blog will note that I changed the name of the blog from the "Fitter in my Fifties Blog" to the "Runner of a Certain Age" blog. No reason for the change other than I think the new name is more fun.

But that's not what I wanted to write about here. What I wanted to write about was my experience last weekend in participating in 2 separate running events. The first, on Friday night, was the Electric Run NYC. The second, on Sunday morning, was the Rock 'n Roll Providence Half Marathon.

Electric Run NYC

When I first learned about the Electric Run a while back I almost painted myself into a really unfortunate corner. I had been keeping my eye out for events that I thought my wife and kids would enjoy as well and this seemed to fit the bill. So as soon as I heard about it I suggested it to my wife Andie and daughter Charlotte (Charlotte's older sister Natalie is away at college). They both immediately said they would like to go, and in fact Charlotte even told me she wanted to invite a couple of friends.

And then I looked at the calendar. The Electric run was scheduled for Saturday September 28 at 8:00 PM. The thing is, I was already committed to running the Rock 'n Roll Providence Half marathon at 7:00 AM the next morning. So that would mean doing the Electric Run, getting home at maybe 11:00 at the earliest, getting to bed by midnight if I was really lucky, then getting up by 3:00 AM the next morning at the absolute latest in order to make the 7:00 start time in Providence. That does not sound like a fun race weekend. But I already committed to doing the Electric run with Andie and Charlotte, and as this was the first time I was able to convince them to join me. I did not want to back out.

Then, a mere couple of weeks after the race was announced, the Electric Run sold out and the organizers announced a second race on Friday night. I immediately contacted them and asked to change our date from Saturday to Friday. The organizers were very sympathetic and accommodated me. Whew! Now we would do the Electric Run on Friday night and I would be able to drive to Providence on Saturday, go to the expo and be well-rested for the 7:00 start on Sunday.

On the day of the Electric Run, Charlotte and I, along with her friends Julia and Emily, left the house about 5:00. We drove to White Plains to pick up Andie at the train station and made our way to Floyd Bennett Field in Brooklyn. This was our one complaint the whole evening - the drive was long and painful. I was even concerned about us getting there for the 8:00 start. I needn't have worried as a) we made it in plenty of time and b) the start time turned out to be more of a "suggestion" (more on that later).

The Electric Run is a series of night time 5K runs in which the entire course is illuminated with a series of light displays including lighting effects, brightly colored inflatable structures and projections accompanied by electronic dance music. Participants are encouraged to dress in bright outfits - preferably with elements that light up - the wilder the better. While the girls all wore neon colors, I have to say that we were all put to shame by other participants wearing brightly colored wigs and tutus, and with all sorts of lit-up baubles.

We arrived at the field and were greeted by the blaring electronic music and the sight of lit up elements of the course in the distance.We checked in and were given our bibs, wrist bands, t-shirts and light-up "eye glasses" (which needed to be put together - I just made mine into a bracelet). A bit later they started making announcements asking runners to get to the corrals for the start. There were no strict corrals per se, they just held folks back for a few minutes while they allowed a wave to start down the course. We were in the second wave. While we waited we were entertained with electronic music and flashing lights, as well as an announcer talking to the crowd from an elevated platform while throwing light-up trinkets into the crowd.

Finally, after being held back for a bit longer, we allowed to start. The announcer asked runners to go to the left and told walkers to stay to the right. We planned to walk so we stayed right. Now, you may (or may not) have noticed that I have avoided using the term "race" in reference to this event. That's because this truly was not a race. To begin with, participants were not even timed. The start time seemed to be more of a suggestion than an actual start time. As a result the whole thing felt more like a 3.1 mile party than a race.

And what a party! The night was gorgeous and we had a blast making our way through all of the various light displays.  Here are some pictures from the night's festivities:

Rock 'n Roll Providence Half Marathon

I left to drive to Providence at a little after noon on Saturday and arrived about 3:30. I headed straight to the expo.

The expo

Interestingly this is my fifth half marathon, yet I have never really been to a runner's expo. When I did the Walt Disney World Half Marathon I really didn't get the chance to spend much time at the expo and it was really crowded. Neither the Sleepy Hollow half nor the Fairfield half had expos, and I didn't go to the Rutgers expo at all. In this case I had about an hour and a half to spend there - it closed at 5:00 - and I could have used at least another hour.

First thing was packet pick up. I had already printed out my waiver so I was able to right to the desk to get my bib. The organizers actually had 3 tables - the first was to get your bib, the second your t-shirt and the third was your swag bag. The t-shirt was a nice black tech shirt with a pretty cool design, but the swag bag didn't have all that much swag in honesty. But it did have a cool car sticker - actually 2: "I Rocked 13.1" and "I rocked 26.2". Naturally I only intend to use the first one.

There was a lot of cool stuff to look at, even though this was a smaller race and therefore, I assume, a smaller expo than, say, one of the Disney races. Anyway, I was still able to check out a bunch of the displays and I bought a few things I needed - including some Gu and Clif bars - as well as one thing I wanted, a new t-shirt. I must confess that I'm not crazy about design of the shirt, but I really wanted to get one. What can I say - it's a sickness.

After visiting the expo I walked around Providence a bit. Providence really looks like a pretty city - at least the part near where the race was starting. The area included the Rhode Island State House and a pretty upscale mall called Providence Place. I checked out the park where the pre and post-race activities were to take place and even heard a little of the headliner band +Atlas Genius .

I had dinner at Fire + Ice, a restaurant that I had been to a few years ago in Anaheim. It seemed like a good idea for a night-before-a-race dinner because you can basically pick your own ingredients and they cook it up on a large grill. I had rice with vegetables and chicken. It was pretty good. After that I went to my hotel - The +Best Western West Greenwich Inn. (A quick note about this hotel. Look, I paid about $80 for this room. Expectations were not high. This hotel vastly exceeded my expectations. The rooms are probably due for a refurb, but my room was clean and well maintained. And the staff was exceptional. I would stay here again in a second.) After checking in I decided a wanted a little dessert so I went to +Cracker Barrel Old Country Store for apple pie. I ended up getting some deep dish apple concoction that was WAY too sweet and LARGE. I ended up eating about a third of it. Finally I went back to the hotel and used the Jacuzzi for a bit before trying to get some sleep (I never sleep well before a race).

Before the race

The +Best Western West Greenwich Inn was about 15 minutes from the location of the race start. I like getting to race events early so I'm not stressed, so I got up and left my room about 5:00. The race instructions suggested parking at the Providence Place Mall. Getting to the lot and parking was no problem at all. The only minor issue I had was figuring out exactly where to go once left the lot, but again that was just a minor issue.

Once I got to the starting area I walked around for a bit - avoiding the wet grass in the park (I hate wet shoes!) I did have to walk on the wet grass to check my bag, but that was it. As I walked around I noticed something - the participants at this race were clearly an eclectic bunch. This did not surprise me considering the way that the Rock 'n Roll series seem to go out of their way to market themselves to all types of runners. I saw many folks who didn't exactly look like the prototypical super fit long distance runner. I even saw a "little person" (an odd phrase for a guy who was, in fact, a pretty big guy - just very short), a guy with no legs running on "blades" and a woman in her 70's. And it wasn't just different physical types I saw. There were several interesting outfits including rainbow colored wigs, tutus and I saw 2 guys in kilts. I think that the whole Rock 'n Roll vibe brings out the crazy side in the participants. It was great fun seeing such an eclectic group!

Starting at about 6:30 folks started getting into their corrals. I was in corral 9. This made me wonder how big the corrals were - and the answer is that they were quite small. I think there were 14 in all. The only other race I did that had corrals was the Walt Disney World Half Marathon which had about 25,000 participants and only 8 corrals. As it turned out, the starting chute for this race was pretty narrow and the individual corrals were quite small - only a couple hundred in each. To give you an idea, I was in corral E at Disney World and I went through the starting gate 40 minutes after the race started. In Providence I was in corral 9 and went through the gate less than 10 minutes after the race started.

The Course

The course wound it's way through several Providence neighborhoods. The course immediately crossed to the east side of the river and continued in a large loop around the city. We were able to see a fair bit of the city, and again I was impressed by what a nice city it looked to be. Between miles 2 and 3 we ran past and entry road to Brown University but we did not go into the campus - pity. The first half of the course was a bit hilly but not bad. I'm pretty used to running hills and this didn't bother me at all. The second half of the course was very flat. The nicest part for me was between miles 7 and 8, when the course run next to the river. There was a mist on the river which distorted the opposite shore - it was absolutely beautiful.

The Rock 'n Roll Marathon series is known for their on-course entertainment and this race did not disappoint. There were so many bands on the course that it seemed as though you could hear music playing for most of the race. I think there were about 10 bands along the course route. I understand that they bring in local acts and the talent level was very high. Having this level of entertainment really makes the race go much more quickly. I would say that this race compared to the Disney race in terms of entertainment. The quality of the entertainment may have been better at he Disney race, but it was more evenly dispersed throughout the course for Rock 'n Roll. The same could be said of the course itself - the "highs" of the course (running through the parks) at the Disney race might have been higher, but there were also long stretches of nothing. The Providence course was consistently interesting and challenging throughout. In fact, I would have to tie this course with the Disney course as my favorite.

The crowd support on the course was good but not great. I hate to speak ill of supporters along the course and I won't here - they are such an essential part of an enjoyable race experience. Still, taking Disney out of the equation (it really isn't fair to compare the crowds at any race to Disney), when I compare the crowd in Providence to, say, Fairfield, I have to day that Providence pales a bit in comparison. Still, there was a lot of support on the street and some of the more inventive signs I've seen (my favorites: "Smile! You're not wearing underwear!" and "Don't poop!")

Finally, the number of water stations was fine. It wasn't an overly hot day so they didn't have to go overboard. There were also a couple of GU stations as well.

The Race

This was my strongest half marathon yet by far. I was really pleased with my results. First of all, I managed a PR by about 15 minutes. Regardless, I maintained a pretty consistent pace throughout. (The only exception was mile 5 when I had to make a pit stop) I also felt very strong all the way through and was even able to "dig down" and find something extra for the last mile or two. At about mile 7 I saw a pace team ahead of me but I could not read the time on the card. I figured they were probably the 2:45 pace team, but as I approached I realized that they were the 2:30 pace team! I ended up passing them and stayed ahead of them for a while, but I think that they poured it on at the end to make their pace time and ended up catching up to me. Nearly perfect weather (except a bit warm at the end), a reasonable course and me feeling strong all resulted in a run I felt really good about. Plus I've been listening to podcasts and reading about race preparation - including nutrition - and I think that helped as well. All in all, by far my strongest race yet.

Post race

After crossing the finish line there were tables with water, +POWERADE , bananas and bagels. There was a bit of confusion here - this was considered a "security area" and once you exited you were not allowed back in. I knew this because, well, I actually read the race information! There were a lot of folks who missed this, though, and left the area with no water or anything. When they tried to get back in they were turned away. However, the organizers were accommodating and runners could simply walk up to the tables at the edge of the barriers and ask for whatever they needed. I knew enough to pick up a banana and Powerade before leaving the area. One we crossed the finish line we were given our finishers medal. They had also set up tables with bananas, bagels, water and

I've been hearing lately that having sports drinks during a race is not a good idea so I only had water during the race, but I know that sports drinks are good for recovery so I drank the Powerade right away. I also know that eating something with protein is important. So, I picked up my bag from bag check where I had stored a +Clif Bar , which I ate while walking around and working the kinks out of my legs. I also had my picture taken in front of a "Rock 'n Roll Marathon" backdrop. I contemplated watching the +Atlas Genius concert, but the Jacuzzi at the hotel was calling my name. The good folks at the +Best Western West Greenwich Inn had agreed to allow me to check out late, giving me the opportunity to get back, relax in the Jacuzzi for a while and take a shower before the drive home.


I had mentioned earlier that there wasn't much in the in the swag bag. That said, the main things you are looking at getting from a race are the shirt and, of course, the medal. I already mentioned the shirt - a nice black tech t-shirt with a pretty cool design. The medal is really nice. It's a cool design featuring the logo from the race (with a graphic of loud speakers). Also,it's a good, substantial, thick medal that is high quality. Based on the pictures I've seen on the Rock 'n Roll Marathon website I anticipated a nice medal and I was not disappointed.

So, would I do the race again? I would say that there's a very good chance I may do this race again in a few years. But I definitely will do more Rock 'n Roll Marathons. In fact I'm already signed up for the Rock 'n Roll Brooklyn 10K and the Rock 'n Roll USA Marathon in Washington DC. I am running the Brooklyn 10K with my daughter and I am very excited about that! More on that later.

Final Note: Just before posting this I did a 23 mile training run, after which I felt MUCH better than I did a couple of weeks ago after to a 20 mile training run.