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Philly Rock and Roll Half Marathon Recap & Pictures

Where do I even start?

I have tried to write this post about 4 times now, and each time I was not sure exactly where to go with it and ended up nowhere near where I wanted to finish. So here is my best effort of staying focused and on point…

This past Sunday, I got the opportunity to complete something that literally seemed impossible to me when I started out in all of this just 10 months ago. I think I’ve said this before, but if you told me that I was going to be running for 13 miles straight I would have laughed and said “why don’t we just make it 100? …because they are both impossible”. Even when I made up the plan I thought it might be a stretch to pull this off, but here I am, having run in and completed a half marathon and it feels freaking unbelievable…

There is so much that I want to touch on, between the race itself, all the people who helped make it such a special day for me, and now that I have had a few days to digest it all, some thoughts looking on back on a day that I will never forget.

First and foremost, this post is about the race itself, so let me start there. It was the perfect day. Literally perfect. Cool in the morning and then heating up to the mid 70’s. Partly cloudy but more sun than clouds. If you could custom create an ideal day to go for a run, this would be it. So not sure if it was just the hype and environment that goes with it being the day of the race, or the sheer volume of people, or a combo of the both, but I was not nervous at all, just excited and anxious to get started. I got down there around 7, and met up with my Uncle Mario, who I was running with. (more on that later). After we met up, he tracked down one of his buddies and I tracked down my peeps too. Everybody met, caught up, and then got stretched and ready to run. So the way they run these massive races (21,000+ runners for the race) is to start people in waves, rather than all at once and risk a massive bottleneck at every turn. So we ended up in corral 19, which meant that we did not start running till approx 20 min after the initial starting gun went off. Kind of anticlimactic, I know, but it allowed me some breathing room, and I’m a big fan of that. As for the run itself, it was a great one. It wrapped through Philly, running through center city, all the way down to old city/ historic district, and then out to the part of the city where most of the runners go…”the loop”, as they call it. Out Kelly Drive on one side of the Schuylkill River, over the Falls Bridge, and back down West River drive on the other side of the river, finishing right in front of the “rocky steps” at the art museum. The starting in waves actually worked, because even though there were 21,000+ runners in the race, you would never know it. It was crowded all the way, but not mobbed, everybody had room to just relax. Settle in, and run their own race. As for me and Uncle Mario, we started out strong and never looked back. Actually, we actually had to dial it back a little a couple times because we just kept slowly getting comfortable and creeping into a faster and faster pace as we went along. It was pretty cool to just relax and chat it up the entire time.It did start to get challenging on the final leg of the run down West River drive, and the talking did start to get more spread out, but even then it was still all good. Uncle Mario got hit with a few leg cramps as we got into miles 12 and 13, but we were both able to fight through and finish it out strong. We ran 13 of the 13.1 miles together, and as we came into the final stretch he waved me off and I was not about to argue, the adrenaline was not like anything I have experienced before. I just took off sprinting and hauling ass for that finish line. The only time my focus wavered was when I saw and heard Jenn jumping up and down cheering me on right before the finish line. Having her there and finishing that race is one of the best feelings I have ever felt. I actually had to bite my lip as I crossed the finish line to keep myself from getting emotional. The course, the water stops, the bands that were set up and playing every mile…everything was well planned and executed. It resulted in a race that actually lived up to its billing…it was just a ton of fun. I loved it. Not to mention all that on top of the fact that it was the culmination for me of 10 months of hard work and dedication. Let me tell you, there are a few moments that have come out of all this that are standouts to me, the times where I have been so invested, both physically and emotionally in what I am trying to accomplish that once I get there it really blows me away. This is one of those times. I can say that I will literally never forget taking those last few strides over the finish line. It was a combo of being so happy I am ready to cry and being so amped up that I felt like I could have run for another few miles at the same time. (case in point, after I crossed the finish line, I went to open my water bottle  and take a drink…with my teeth like I always do and I was so amped up I ripped the open/ close thingy clean out of the bottle; looks like I need to spring for a new one now).

The race was amazing, it exceeded every expectation I had. (And that was just the race itself) There were a collection of people there to support me that pushed the experience so far over the top I’m afraid I’ll never be able to match it.

The first people I wanted to mention are Moe and Lauren who also ran the race. You have heard about these ladies before, they are the same girls I ran my very first 5K together with. It’s a great feeling to see how far we have all come since that snowy morning last February. Girls, you have both been an every day source of support and sounding board for me, and I thank you for that. Awesome ladies, for real.

Speaking of ladies who were also running the race, I need to mention my buddy Donna. I met Donna when I first started dating Jenn. I would go up to her college to visit her every weekend, and since Jenn was on the rugby team at school, that’s where a lot of her friends came from and consequently I got a chance to hang with all the “rugger” girls on a regular basis. Donna was on the rugby team (read: she’s been an athlete for a long time now) and I got the chance to meet up with her before the race and then I bumped into her along the course as well. I only got to run about a mile or so with her, but it was really great. This is what I was talking about when I say that she was out running miles back at a time while I was not running anywhere but to the car so I could hit the next drive thru. Now I’m in a position to hang with her. Kind of puts things in perspective for me. (And feels fantastic)

This leads me to the last person who I wanted to talk about in terms of running the race. I have to take a second and talk about the now infamous “Uncle Mario”. So here’s the deal, I have a very close knit family. My mom and her two sisters are pretty much inseparable, and the three associated families are all very close. Uncle Mario is married to my mom’s sister Andrea and has known me since I was a little kid. So he has consequently had the chance to watch me grow up. (This includes watching me both before and after that point in my 20’s where I started to pack on the weight and blow up the scale). We have always been relatively close, but I feel like our relationship has taken a whole new turn over the past year. I’ve gone into all this before, but it’s safe to say that he has become kind of my mentor when it comes to all things running. I’ve said all this to him offline already, but it feels like “thanks” does not quite cover it all…he’s been one of my #1 supporters from before I even started any of this, (even back when I was still just planning things out) and has been a constant source of insanely useful advice, encouragement and guidance through the entire process. So thanks, this race/day would not have been everything it was if I wasn’t running beside you on this one.

Then I come to the rest of my entourage. I put out a message on facebook a few weeks back with an open invite to any friends who happened to be free that day to come on down and celebrate with me. Not surprisingly, a lot of people were busy with families or other plans, etc. There were a few people that went out of their way to come down and cheer me on, and I wanted to send a quick thanks to you as well. First, my buddy Kevin and his wife Courtney biked down (with their young daughter!) all the way from Conshohocken to Center City to cheer me on. They saw me and cheered me on at three (3!) separate places along the course. I’d pass, they’d cheer and then move on to the next spot along the course. I’d pass again; they’d cheer again and move on again. Extraordinary effort on your part, and believe me, it gave me a tremendous push. And last but certainly not least, My family (and Tara). I had 4 beautiful ladies all waiting for me when I crossed over the finish line. Jenn, My Mom, My sister Jennifer, and our good friend Tara all were hanging together while I was out running all over Philadelphia, and they made for a fantastic welcome party when I was finished. All of my favorite people were there, and it completely made the day for me. Our friend Tara has been a huge supporter of mine as I went through everything, and she is an all around awesome person and great friend. Plus, she and I will always have a special bond. Let’s just say I was given the opportunity to play an integral part in her wedding last summer. As for my mom and sister, it means so much that you were both there. To hear you say how proud of me you are, it makes all the effort worthwhile. And Jenn, Jesus, where do I even start? We have talked at length about all this, but suffice it to say that you really are my driving force and without you, none of this ever happens. I love you babe. So much.

OK, enough sap-sap-sappy stuff. Back to the race. Looking back on it now, it was an amazing time and I can’t wait to run my next one. Now that I have had almost a week to digest everything (and come down a little from the high of finishing the race) looking back everything was still as good as it felt immediately after. The race pictures from the official photographer came back in and although I’m still not sure if I’m going to buy any (because I might have to re-mortgage the house in order to afford them they are so expensive), the general theme is that I look happy and relaxed for the entire race…except for that last .1 in between 13 and 13.1 mile marks where I was really pushing and sprinting it out. Apparently, when I am really bearing down and hauling ass, I get “Angry Andy” face. I look seriously scary and intense. I have no idea where that came from, but there it is. Angry Andy. I’ll have to work on not looking like a serial killer as I’m sprinting out the end next time…haha.

The other revelation that I had during the race and then has been reinforced all this week (although it may seem obvious to most people) is that: I AM a runner. Up until this point, I kind of viewed myself as a weight loss guy who was using running to assist in the weight loss. Now things have flipped. I am a runner. I really enjoy running, and I have proven to myself that I can actually hold my own and hang with the real deal runners out there. Now, I am not an elite runner, and I will never have the burning desire to run a half marathon in an hour or anything, but I have really unlocked something inside myself that I never knew or could have imagined was there. I really enjoy this and I am not exaggerating when I say that it has changed my life. The way I look at things, the way I look at myself and every aspect of my life has been altered, and I owe a lot of that too running. It’s very true what that say, Running does give more than it takes. I’ll say it one more time, I AM a runner.

And lastly: I can easily see why people can get hooked on running in general and on running in these races. I have 3 more left on my calendar for the year, and I am looking forward to each of them for different reasons. The Runner’s World 10K will be my first race with our good friend Rock. Then there is a local 5K around Halloween called the Hatboro YMCA Skeleton Skurry that I am getting the privilege of running with our friend Katie (it’s her very first 5k!), and then The Philly Half Marathon coming up in Nov. I will go on at length about that one later.

This is MORE than enough for now, so I hope you enjoyed the recap and the pics below.

Talk to you soon; and until then: Take it easy.

Andy

The Starting Line around 7:00 AM Me, Moe and Lauren
Me and Uncle Mario…before the pain.
Me and Uncle Mario…after the pain.
Me and Donna after the race
Me and my Favorite Ladies: my sister Jennifer, my Mom, and Jenn
Me and Tara
 
Me and the love of my life: My Jenn
 
Happy Andy! This is what I lloked like for 99% of the race. Until I turned into…
Angry Andy! Still not sure where this face is coming from.
 

Holding Steady For Real / Long Runs Done – Got My Peeps Lined Up / Bittersweet Goodbye To My Lake

So I have said this before, but this time, there is actual truth and some time behind it.
I am holding steady at my current weight. Whereas before I had a little consistency and I thought it was lasting, every time I proclaimed to be steady in the weight department, I would drop down a little more. I’m happy to report that I have been within one pound of 208 (120 pounds lost) now for close to a month, and I think I may have finally found the balance required to keep it there. Of course, I may have just given myself the kiss of death and doomed my scale to show a different number again as well…
It’s taken a lot of getting used to, but I am getting more comfortable with eating more. I take one day off a month where I just let myself just really go for it… I use race day since it’s a day where I know I’m burning a ton of calories and it’s kind of a way to reward myself. Not as much with the actual food per se, moreso with the mental day off and not having to think/ (over)analyze any food choices / and just relax and enjoy myself. I also use that day to treat myself to some things that I would not want to go for any other day because the calories would just not be worth it. Case in point, after my Half Marathon, I really want to go to lunch at one of my two favorite places to eat in Philly. I will either be at The Famous 4th Street Deli eating a literal mountain of corned beef and eggs, or at Tommy DiNic’s in the Reading Terminal eating one of the best things you will ever put in your mouth, their (recently voted “best sandwich in America) famous Italian Roast Pork sandwich. Seriously, it’s insane how good it is. Easily over a thousand calories just for the sandwich alone but worth every single one of them… But I digress… back to the weight. I know come the xmas holiday season (once my second half marathon is over on nov. 18th) that it will take some re-adjusting again, as I will not be running my long training runs and burning 1000-2000 calories at a shot anymore., but I’ll cross that bridge when I come to it. I plan on keeping up on my own little “maintence” routine to keep me active and sane. That schedule should provide some burn and balance to help keep me in check. But again, that is then, this is now. Here’s hoping that I can maintain the 208 for another month, and then another…

I am entering what is known to the avid runner community as “taper week”. Basically what it means is you are tapering off your training the week before a big race to rest up for the race day push. Another way to say this is that all of my long training runs are finished for the first half marathon. I’m as ready as I’m going to be, both physically and mentally. I am looking forward to some decent weekly runs, a lighter (in comparison to recent weeks) weekend long run, and then some easy runs next week to keep loose and get ready to go for my first Half Marathon. I am excited and very slowly getting less nervous and more confident. Still around 50/50, and I am so happy it’s almost go time. Let’s do this bitch. I have a great group of people to run with, and ironically (it’s actually pretty awesome, actually), the group is the same as my very first 5K back in February (well, plus one extra friend (Donna) I hope to bump into during the race). First and foremost I will be running with my co-workers Maureen and Lauren. We have all been going at this since jumpstreet and have been support for each other the whole way, so getting to reunite the group to tackle this 13.1 is going to be great. Looking forward to re-creating this picture, only without the snow, winter gear, some extra pounds, and Lauren’s closed eyes… In addition to the work crew, I have a (previously mentioned) friend Donna who I met years ago through visiting my wife (then girlfriend) up at her college where they played rugby together. Donna is another one of those friends who I kind of always viewed as already in shape, so when she reached out to me to let me know that she started running again and was planning on doing the Rock and Roll, I got excited. To be able to hang with the likes of those who were out running miles even years back while all I was doing was running to McDonalds for quarter pounders is still a little bit humbling to me. And lastly, and most importantly to me, I get the chance again to run side by side with my Uncle Mario. Uncle Mario is a more experienced runner who whose first race after completing the Philadelphia Marathon last year was to take several steps back and very graciously run my first 5k with me. He has been a sounding board and one of my biggest and most vocal supporters literally step of the way. From before I even started any of this, he’s been there for me, so to be honest it only makes sense (and really means a lot) for me to be able to come full circle and run my first Half with him as well. Really looking forward to it. 11 days and counting.

So the big move is coming up this weekend, and with it, I say a very fond farewell to my lake. Yes, I know it’s not mine. Don’t break my stones, you know what I mean. Sure, I can still drive up there, only difference is that instead of being 15 minutes away it’ll be a 45+ minute drive each way. So it’s do-able but just not convenient anymore. Especially when I have my choice of multiple options within 5 minutes of my new place (and a treadmill in the basement), one of which being a just shy of 3 mile (each direction) paved running path that is literally minutes from my house. It’s just like the lake, except there is no view except trees and the backs of houses, and it’s out and back and instead of a big loop. It fits the bill perfectly, but I have come into my own running at Peace Valley Park/ Lake Galena, both physically and emotionally, and I’m really going to miss it. I understand they run a 10K there every year, maybe I’ll look into running in that race, just for nostalgia’s sake. Something to look into for the future, at least. The Horsham Power Line Trail will be my new primary training spot and I’m looking forward to it. As much as I have grown at the lake, I’m hoping I can equal and surpass it on the Power Line Trail. Look for me if you’re ever out there. Here’s to moving on to bigger and better…

Anyway, that’s enough for now, but I will be back soon. I have this month’s photo update coming up, as well as another product review for some badass running gear from http://www.inknburn.com!

More on that soon, and until next time, take it easy.

Andy

***ROAD ID PRODUCT REVIEW AND GIVEAWAY***/ Thoughts on my changing body

Having lost all the weight that I have I am faced with a few undeniable truths that have admittedly taken some getting used to, specifically in regards to my new body (in comparison to the way I used to be and was VERY accustomed to) I have discussed all these before, but I have a point to make and it all bears repeating:

1)     First, I used to be hot all the time. Desk fan in February hot. Fog car windows up in the wintertime hot. No more. Now I am frickin freezing all the time. I actually caught myself thinking out loud yesterday that I should bring a sweater into work to keep for when they really crank the Air Conditioning and it gets too damn cold to think.

2)     Second, My ass is gone. It mysteriously disappeared. Now it’s not totally a shocker, I did set out to lose the weight. I guess I was just hoped it would be more belly and less ass to go though. My butt falls asleep all the time now when I’m sitting too long…and I have a desk job, so I’m generally dealing with a tingling backside come the afternoon.

3)     And Third, and most importantly, I used to be a rather imposing figure. I never had to worry about much in terms of physical harm. In the words of one of my closest friends (which is why he could get away with saying this) when we were talking about me forgetting to lock the deadbolt on the apartment door I lived in at the time one night: “seriously, who’s going to steal the 300 pound man?” He knew as well as I did that if I was up and looked angry, odds are most people looking to break in would pick a different target. This too, sadly, is no more. I love my new body, I love the energy I have, the way my clothes fit me and the way I generally feel now. But I still have to wrap my head around the fact I am not the giant people mover that I used to be. In the words of my brother Chris from just this past weekend when we were talking about it; rather than being the big guy in the crowd, now I’m “just another dude in a v-neck t shirt”.

This third point is where I want to settle and discuss, because while it thrills me that I am no longer easily distinguishable by my girth alone, it does present a new set of worries that honestly never crossed my mind before. I am very in tune with my body now and very aware of just how big I am (or should I say “how big I am not anymore”). This is especially prevalent in terms of when I am running; which is typically done alone and in off the beaten path areas, like the jogging path around a lake. If something were to happen to me, while I am much healthier, I simply do not have the sheer size I used to which could much more easily fend things and/or people off; especially for instance if you catch me on mile 8 or 9 of a long run. This is a concern, and while the odds are nothing is ever going to happen, the chance that something might does warrant at least some consideration.

For this reason I became interested in a company called Road ID. They make products that, as the name would imply, serve as a wearable ID that you can incorporate as part of your workout gear and have on you to speak for you, even (or especially) in the event something happens and you can’t speak for yourself. I was given the opportunity to order one for myself and then review it for you, and I am happy to do so.

So let me hit you with the basics first off: what exactly is a Road ID and why specifically do I like it? Like I mentioned, in its most boiled down explanation, Road ID is a wearable form of identification that you incorporate into your everyday workout gear. It is intended for runners, cyclists, swimmers, or basically anybody whose workout takes them outdoors. There are various different styles to choose from, a few different bracelet models, one for your ankle, one that attaches to your shoe, and even a dog tag looking necklace version. It consists of an engraved metal plate that has your info permanently etched into it (for longevity and durability’s sake) and then some form of strap to attach it to yourself. The dog tags are obviously on a chain, the bracelets, ankle strap, and shoe model are all attached to an adjustable strap to wear.

I ordered the smallest of the three various sized bracelets, the Wrist ID Slim. It comes on a rubber bracelet, much like the standard issue “Livestrong” or other “Cause” style rubber bracelet. So it’s the rubber bracelet with a tiny metal cuff on it, maybe an inch long and the same width as the bracelet itself that has all my ID info on it. In the 5 lines of text that is allowable I was able to fit: my full name, my nickname, what town I am from, my home phone number, my wife’s name and her phone number, my date of birth, some medical info, and still had enough room to throw in a little motivational saying: “Running My Ass Off”.

If god forbid something should ever happen where someone had to read this, in this wireless Internet information age what’s engraved on that metal cuff can get you access to most of my important info, especially if you are a medical personnel who has the tools to access that kind of info quickly.

To me this seems like a no brainer. Much like insurance, it’s something that you don’t ever want to use but it can be a life saver (literally) if you ever do need it. I’m not going to belabor the intent or function of this anymore; it’s a wearable form of ID that is there to protect you in the event you need it. Simple, functional, important.

Just as important as the function is the form of the product. Or in other words, even though it’s clearly an important piece of equipment,  if it either impedes your training in any way, if it’s inconvenient, or if it’s ugly as hell, people are not going to buy it/ wear it. Say what you will about the principle of the matter, it’s the truth. So let me address that as well.

The model I got (the Wrist ID Slim), as the name implies is very small, not intrusive at all, and comes on a very discrete, nondescript rubber bracelet. I actually took it off of the bracelet it came on and put it on my Livestrong bracelet that I wear when I’m running. It fits perfect and you honestly would never know it was there. After wearing it on an 11 mile run, I can say that it didn’t rub or cause any distraction on any way. It weighs next to nothing so I am very pleased in that respects.

The engraved plate is your standard dull silver stainless steel color, not remarkable or flashy, but modern enough to look current and sporty. It kind of blends in with the bracelet and did not affect my run in any way, which I suspect is entirely the point. I chose the slim because I didn’t want anything big and in your face, although what I sacrificed in size with the slim as opposed to the larger “sport” or “elite” versions is an even more obvious ID and an extra line of engraveable text. I was ok with it because I was able to stay low key and still pack in all the info I wanted to on the slim, otherwise I would have been happy with either of the other 2 bracelet options, both are cool/sporty enough that I would not mind wearing them.

Most importantly, with this Road ID, it gives my wife peace of mind.  When I’m out running she always knows roughly where I’m at, but for example, the 6 mile trail around the lake is a pretty damn big place, so pinpointing me exactly is tough to do. That peace of mind to me is worth the price tag in and of itself.

Speaking of price, this is not a “luxury item” or “break the bank” piece of gear, The price tag for my bracelet? $17.48. Seventeen bucks and change for peace of mind seems like a pretty good deal to me. Even if you go for the most expensive model they offer (the Wrist ID Elite at $29.99) you’re not talking big bucks here.

So it’s safe to say I’m a fan of the Road ID and readily recommend it. It really is an ingenious thing, so simple but very powerful all at the same time. I have already decided it’s going to be a part of my running gear from today on.

***HERE”S THE GIVEAWAY PART***

I am actually so impressed with my Road ID that I worked with the account representative and secured one (actually, a gift card big enough to cover the cost of any of their products) to give away to one reader who agrees with me and would want one of their very own.

So all I have to do is run the giveaway, and that’s exactly what I plan on doing. So here’s how it’s going to work:

To enter, answer one of the following two questions in the comments section of this blog post, or answer one of the questions in the form of a comment in the posting on the Bigandysrunning facebook page.

Since this blog is based around both weight loss and running, I’ll hit you with a question intended for each group:

                       Weight Loss Readers:

  • Since you are most likely just beginning your training and looking at longer and longer runs/workouts in your future, what kind of safety concerns might you have?  

                  And for the more established runners:

  • Have you ever had a close call on the road?

**you don’t have to answer both, just pick one**

You can also “like” Road ID on facebook or “follow” them on twitter for an additional entry. You have to like them, and then come back here and let me know in the comments though in order to get your extra entry.

And that’s it. The deadline to enter is 12:00 noon, EST on Wed, Sept. 12th. So there it is: my first official product review is in the books, I hope you like it.

**I also included some pics so you can see what I’m talking about. I have blacked out most of my personal info because….well, it’s my personal info.

 ______________________________________________________

I am approaching this review from my standard viewpoint of what I believe the core interest of this blog really gets at: that is to say I am presenting my review by looking at this product from the perspective of a person who is relatively new to the running world, has some weight to lose and wants go about losing the weight by starting to incorporate a more active lifestyle and want to know how sift through the volumes of available gear/ equipment out there.

One of the great benefits to running a blog like this one is that it puts me in a position from time to time to receive various products to use and review for you. Oftentimes, these items are provided to me free of charge. This is the only type of compensation I have ever received, and my acceptance of these items in no way constitutes any obligation to provide an unwarranted positive review. My opinions on the products are unfiltered and 100% my own.

**This product was provided to me free of charge, but again, this does not influence my review or views on the product in any way**

Also please note that these are the personal opinions and experiences of one individual (me) on my personal blog, and intended to be taken as such. I personally, and The Running My Ass Off Blog do not accept any liability from the purchase or use of any products reviewed on this blog.

**Sorry, just have to cover my ass here. These are unbiased reviews, intended only to help. I’m not going to try and sell you anything, nor do I want you to take my opinions as the final word on any product. Let me help you figure out what you should check out, and then check the stuff out for yourself to see if you like it.**