Category Archives: IV- Pics

Spartan Race Post & Giveaway

I have a different kind of post for you today. A little deviation from the standard “here’s my training progress” post.

 I have been approached by the folks at the Reebok Spartan Race asking if I would put up a post about their races, and specifically talk about the February 8-9 Arizona and April 5 Vegas races coming up soon. (see links below for discount codes and to register)

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 I’m getting much more selective about what products and services that I write about. I want to make sure that it stays consistent with my personal goals/ progress/ experiences and is also relevant to the blogs core group of readers. And while it’s true that I don’t have any mud runs/ obstacle races on the schedule this year, there is no denying their mass appeal and prevalence in the racing world. I did one last year and would not trade the experience for anything. As a matter of fact, I have talked to several runners now who have gotten their start into a more active lifestyle by training for and completing one of these races. Hell, my original “big goal” was a race like this. (That did change once I got started and I fell in love with road racing, but that does not change the fact that the initial push came from an obstacle challenge)

 With all that being said, I wanted to share some info on the Spartan Race.

 Kind of an “Obstacle Race 101 class” if you will.  So here is the deal with these races: they take place in an off-road setting, and while you are still covering the distance of the race, the path is filled with various military boot-camp style obstacles in most cases. This can include monkey bars, walls to jump over, big ass tires to flip, rock walls to climb, bales of hay (on fire, of course) to jump over, and then the infamous Mud Pit to crawl through.

 I’ll be honest, while the mud and the obligatory “before and after” pics are a draw for a lot of people, it didn’t really so it for me. It was cool and something that I’m glad I got to experience (plus it have me this great photo op with my badass sister who ran it with me)

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…but it was less the “dripping with mud” aspect and more of the “everyone working together as a team” aspect that really held the appeal for me.

 The real driving force behind this type of race is that it’s a group effort. Whether you bring a crew of 20 people along with you like I did, or fly solo you are probably going to need, and guaranteed you will receive help along the way at some point while you are out there. That’s what I took out of the experience. (That and also it’s surprising how difficult it is to run and climb a rock wall while dripping a head to toe coating of mud) of course it’s a huge physical challenge, but the comroderie is what really attracted me and will eventually make me want to do another one. I got help from my peeps, and then from total strangers. I in turn help them all as well, my team or not: everyone had each other’s backs and that was awesome.

 This is what the Spartan Race is all about: pushing yourself and helping others do the same. If you have not tried one, I highly recommend it.

 It’s a great goal and race to try, even if you are newer to the active lifestyle scene, because if you want to finish it and you train for it, you will finish it, and crossing that finish line will make you feel like a complete and total badass. I can guarantee that.

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Now here’s the cool part: as part of the deal for my posting up this Obstacle Run/ Spartan Race post, the insanely generous people at the Spartan Race have agreed to give me a discount code for everybody who reads this to use for a discount when registering, and one lucky winner will get a free entry into any 2014 Spartan Race in the US.

 All you need to do to enter is:

  • Comment on this blog post
  • Like, share or comment on this post on the Big Andy’s Running Facebook page
  • Favorite or Retweet this post on the @bigandya twitter feed.

 Each comment, like, share, favorite, or retweet gets you an entry. I’ll pull the free race winner at noon EST on Tuesday, Jan 28th, 2014.

*For the discount code, click HERE and it will take you to a page and generate a 15% off discount code for race entry

 Good luck, and until next time: Take it easy

 Andy

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The Color Run Recap

The color run Philly.

It delivered on it’s hype and seriously was a lot of fun.
(We were joking as we walked back to the car at the end that if there was ever a run that we could tailgate beforehand, this would be the one)

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There were a ton of people. I missed the official head count, but this race was huge. As I mentioned before, it completely sold out and that definitely showed. There were a TON of people running. Easily into the thousands. But it was a good mix.

About half and half I would estimate between runners and run/walk or straight walkers. Which led to my re-naming the back of the pack that we were in “the color walk”. Between a narrow path and a ton of congestion, we could not have run the race even if we wanted to. That being said, we did not want to. We wanted to get together, run a little, walk a lot, joke around and enjoy the experience. Crack some jokes, have a lot of laughs, and have some nut job volunteer blast us with artificially colored cooking product every 10 to 15 minutes or so. I am happy to report that by that measure, we were completely successful on all levels. And it was a lot of fun.

So: the big question mark in my mind was: Whatis this really all about? What’s the deal with these “Color Stations?”

Picture this: Volunteers in brightly colored T shirts of whatever color the station was double fisting oversized restaurant style ketchup squeezie bottles full of their colored cornstarch, blasting everybody who came by. Some just having fun and other REALLY into it going completely insane. It all added up to a fun and definitely unique experience.
The color stations were a literal hazy puff of colored smoke. A giant cloud of color that you could barely see through. Case in point…

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The course itself was in Fairmount Park, right in front of the Please Touch Museum, a location I am very familiar with since we end up taking Tess there once every 6 months or so. It wrapped in through the park and back around to the start/finish area again. It was a good, scenic run that I will definitely try and replicate as a run for myself as I move forward in my training. It’s always nice to have a new route to provide a change of scenery in my back pocket. But back to the race…

I knew what kind of vibe they were trying to set right from the beginning, because I got to the race around 6:30 to check everything out and meet up with the team, and the MC was already going and introducing what would turn into a solid one hour massive Zumba class. After the race, the MC was coordinating a “color throw” around every 20 min or so in the finish area, which is that iconic picture of the massive crowd all packed into a tight area with a huge multicolored cloud of color erupting above them. It seriously looked awesome. Very cool stuff. Then somehow, out of that color throwing crowd a totally new scene was formed. It turned from sweaty runners into a nightclub. In a field. At 9 am. Still sweaty, but now with blaring club/ dance music, complete with thumping base and that consistent “uhn-thiss-uhn-thiss”. Which led me to realize that I am old. (and you know what? I’m oddly OK with that)

So, overall impressions is that The Color Run completely excels at the goal of getting people out and active in a new and interesting way. I get it now. I also can see why there is a distaste for that type of race from some in the “serious” running community. But Like I said in my Race Prep post, I am all for these types of races if they are introducing new people to the sport in a non-threatening and less overwhelming manner. This was cemented to me when the MC on the stage asked “So how many of you out there just ran your first 5K today?” the response of yells was pretty damn loud. Which was awesome. I know I’m a dork, but that made me smile as big as anything else that day. All those people doing accomplishing a new challenge and getting active for the first time is a great thing. That’s why I really like the Color Run and the other similar theme races. It’s a a great entry point. It’s almost like “Fisher Price: My first 5K Road Race”. Because really, let’s face facts: Lining up for your first 5K can be scary as hell. For someone who has not done it before, 3.1 miles feels like an eternity. But this event provides a base of experience. Now new runners have shown up, pinned on a bib, and lined up in the starting corral. They now know what it feels like to cross that starting line, they now know what covering 3.1 miles looks and feels like, and most importantly, they now know what crossing that finish line feels like.

I liked it, and as long as we can make it a big social event again next year, I’m on board to do it again. Probably with more props this time around. (The goggles and snorkel were a big hit this year…only room to improve for next though. swimmies and an inner tube?)

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Broad Street Run Recap and Pics

Whoa baby, now that was one hell of a race.

There is so much I want to say about this one.

Performance wise, experience wise, everything all together just clicked and made up quite possibly my best running day to date.

I am completely in love with this race, and there is no doubt in my mind it is going to become an annual event for me. (more on that at the end of this post, so keep reading)

So, where to even start? I’ll start with the race itself and the experience of it all. I’ll talk about my own performance after that.

Like I mentioned in the Race Prep post, this is the largest 10M race in the country. Literally 40,000 runners. That is a ton of people to keep organized and in order, but it seriously ran smoothly. The race is not a loop, it’s a point to point run, so you start in North Philly, and run all the way down to the Stadiums and Navy Yard in South Philadelphia. What this means logistically is that you have to park your car at the finish line and then catch the “shuttle” (Subway) 10 miles up to the start. Everybody was moving pretty well, and even though I ended up getting caught up in some hellish traffic I still was able to get there and make it to the start line with no real time concerns. (I did miss the group photo for the American Cancer Society DetermiNation team, and I was really bummed about that, but next year I’ll get it) Given the recent events in Boston, the city had announced that there were going to be some “additional visible security measures” taken. What they should have said was the city was going to be flooded with police. The presence was overwhelming, in the best way possible. I did kind of expect that, honestly. What I did not expect, however, was the 2 giant SWAT trucks, one at the start line and one at the finish line, the totally conspicuous video recording/ monitoring stations, and the presence of openly armed military. I was happy to see each and every one of them. I was not sure what to expect in that regard, but they were all fantastic, and I felt secure. As for the race itself, also like I said before, this is an even that the city comes out for in droves. So much so that even in the parts of the race where the crowds thinned out a little, you could not run 100 yards without running past a big crowd of cheering fans. The vast majority of the course was literally lined with people, cheering, waving, high fiving. Awesome. Call me dorky, but I totally feed off of that stuff. It really was so much fun. As for the crowds themselves, since you are running through the main artery of the city you get a pretty cool cross section of everybody. I started to write it out myself, but I want to plagiarize a good friend of mine Steve (if you’ll excuse my laziness and thievery), when he said on a facebook post shortly after the race:

 “I dare anyone to run The Broad Street Run and not completely fall in love with the City of Philadelphia. Between the kids at Temple Medical Center in wheelchairs giving out high fives, volunteers everywhere and the smiling Military/police, it was awesome”.

There is literally no way to put it better than that. Well said, Stevie. The crowds and supports could not have been better. Some of the coolest and most unexpected “fan highlights” for me included a multitude of Doctors and Hospital staff outside of the hospitals and local leaders (I got to give a high five to the former Mayor of Philadelphia and Governor of PA, Ed Rendell)

I’ll say it again; the crowds completely took this from a great race to an exceptional one. From families on their way to/from church in their Sunday best, to good-natured (and probably drunken) college kids at Temple, to local leaders, to the aforementioned kids and doctors, to completely awesome police officers everywhere, to residents of every part of the city, it really was just one big good time happy party of support and great attitudes. The weather was literally perfect, cooler and in the high 50’s/ low 60’s at the start of the race and warming up to the high 60’s by the end of the morning, sunny and just ideal for a great run. It was 10 miles I definitely will not forget, and I am admittedly hooked. I will be doing it again next year, no doubt.

Part of the reason that I won’t be forgetting this first Broad Street Run is the fantastic experience and perfect day, and the other part is my personal performance. I went into this thinking that 1:40 would be respectable. 10 minute miles seemed reasonable considering the distance, my past performances in longer runs and the sheer volume of people running. I figured that I might have an outside chance of hitting 1:30 if the stars all aligned and everything clicked. I never in my wildest dreams thought that not only would I hit the 90 min mark, but break that as well. It really was not even part of the discussion. But when it was all said and done, I crossed the finish line in 1:28:38. Un-freaking-believable. You may remember that I mentioned in some previous posts that there are certain times that I feel like I hit certain milestones that make me realize that I am really am a runner, or reinforce that fact. This is one of those milestones. Setting a stretch goal that I’m really not sure I can hit, and then BEATING that makes me feel like I can really do this. (…and also makes me feel like I need to start setting some more aggressive goals) The other fact that really makes me proud is the consistency with which I ran it. The race provided split time updates at miles 3,5,7, and the finish line. My pace was always a sub-9 min mile, and all within a few seconds of each other. It’s not like I started out like a speed demon and let that help my overall time later when I slowed down, my split paces were: 3M-8:50/mile, 5M-8:48/mile, 7M-8:51/mile, F-8:52/mile. I Ran fast and strong through the entire course, quite frankly faster than I thought I was able to run. It’s results like this that make me believe that if I really dial in and start training seriously, I can work on getting faster and actually make it happen/ substantial progress. Up until now, my training has been all about just getting the miles in, and that has served me immensely well to this point, but looking ahead it might be time to take things to the next level (And if you know me, I’m “Mr. Next Level”…always looking for what the next step is) by incorporating some structured speed and tempo workouts into the mix. But that’s another story for another post.

Although, the whole “next level” idea does open the door to the last point I wanted to hit on during this recap. I’ve mentioned before on a few occasions that I ran for a charity during this race. What that really means, is that the official charitable partner of the race, the American Cancer Society organizes a team of runners (their program is called “DetermiNation”) who are willing to raise funds to be donated to charity in order for guaranteed admission into the race. In addition to a spot at the starting line, you also get the added benefit of a dedicated team of coaches, the support of a large group of like-minded individuals, And the satisfaction of knowing that all of your training and hard work is really going to something good at same time. I am a huge fan of this concept. The overwhelmingly positive experience that I had during this race was greatly aided by the fact that I was taking part in the race as part of this program.

So the way it works is this, by being a charity runner you are part of the large overall group. In addition to that, you can create your own team when you sign up to run for the charity. My team this year (Team Pegasus) was comprised of myself and two awesome friends, Rock and Donna. We kept things small as we felt our way through everything this first time around. But here’s where the whole “next level” thing is going to come into play.

Instead of just the three of us, I want to see how much noise we can really make next year. Open it up to every and anybody, and really get a good-sized team going. Yes, I knew this is a full year away. There’s a lot of time between now and then, but I’m still all jazzed up about this race now, so what better time to start? So the working plan, at least for now, is to start really looking for interested people later this year, and start piecing together “Team Running My Ass Off”. Make it open to all levels of runners. We can have our own team of people, support each other, help each other out, and again have some good come out of everything by raising funds to donate to charity.  I’ve already had a few people reach out and ask me if this is what I intend to do next year, which really just cemented the plans in my head. So if anybody has any interest whatsoever, let me know. Whether you are a seasoned runner, or if you’re eating your third cupcake of the day as you read this. Either way is all good. We can make this happen if you want it to. There is a year to prepare. I whole heartedly believe that even if you have never run a day in your life, there are plans to ease you into doing it and 10 miles is an attainable (and admirable) goal.

Below are some pictures from before and after the race.

“Team Pegasus”, Me, Donna, and Rock as we were freezing our asses off in the starting corral waiting for the race to begin.

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Our team again, just before we hit the starting line and after we lost the hoodies. Ready to run.

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After the race I caught up to the now infamous (dare I say “notorious”?) Uncle Mario and my badass cousin Ashley who completed (and totally kicked ass in) her first long distance race.

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Donna, Me, and Rock: Post Run. Tired and Happy.

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Quick shot of me and my good buddy Steve as we were walking out of the food tent after the race.

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A real shot of me and Steve as we were milling around after the race.

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And a solo pic of me taken by the reporter from the Philadelphia Inquirer to be used in the paper as a followup to the article they wrote about me. (Really? you want to take a pic of me IMMEDIATELY after running 10 miles?)

image (4)**all joking aside on that one, I do owe a huge thank you to Rob Senior of the Philadelphia Inquirer. He wrote an amazingly flattering article about my story and the blog. Very well done, sir. I appreciate it very much.