Adventures in Travel Racing

Enjoying DC on some tired legs

While racing locally is obviously much easier and logistically friendly, it can be lots of fun and rewarding to travel for a marathon or triathlon.  Some of my fondest racing memories have been out of town.  In 2007 my parents traveled with me to Washington DC for the Marine Corps Marathon. It was just an okay race for me but the finish line took my breath away right in front of the Iwo Jima Memorial. The next day I hobbled all over DC to see the monuments and museums.  There were a ton of us in race jackets walking backwards down the Lincoln Memorial. 

In 2009, several friends traveled to Philadelphia for the Half Marathon and Marathon. It was a quick one night trip and I scored free accommodations traveling with Kate O’Malley since we stayed with her Aunt Mendy in Philly.  Everything about this trip was fast including my marathon; it remains my PR at 3:40:46 (a Boston Qualifying time back then). After the race we ate an obligatory cheese steak and headed home.
Last year, I went on two racing adventures.  The first was the Disney World Princess Half in Orlando where I got to combine a terrific race with visiting the most magical place on earth!  Then in the fall, I joined the Somerville Road Runners for the Chicago Marathon.  I had been to the city a couple times before so I wasn’t tempted to do too much sightseeing – a great way to exhaust your legs before you get to the starting line – but I did have plenty of time to enjoy the city and Chicago made for a great city to throw a post race party. 
Obligatory Bean Photo after the Chicago Marathon
The packing can be a challenge and it certainly does contribute some extra stress to getting ready for a race but it also adds to the excitement. My friend Karen and I were so excited on the way to Chicago it took us almost the entire flight to figure out what time it was. Race photos are always fun but add a famous city landmark and it’s even better.
This past weekend, Jared and I traveled to the Pocono Mountains for the Ironman 70.3 – Jared would be competing in his 2ndhalf iron and I would be cheering him on and enjoying a little road trip. Luckily, we were only about five hours away so we were able to drive.  Logistics for even a local tri can be tricky so we were both very careful about keeping a packing list and making sure everything made the trip. To add some difficulty, there were two different transition areas so he had to have two of everything. We headed out on Saturday morning, made a quick stop in CT to say hello to our families and drop off the dogs and made it to our Poconos “Resort” (feel free to read my not so flattering Trip Adviser Review) by early afternoon even with a detour that sent us about a half hour out of our way.   The leaves are all starting to change colors so the views were really beautiful once we made it to the mountains but it was also a reminder to Jared that this course was going to be much more challenging than the Patriot Tri in Freetown this summer.
I’m adorable but really stupid
We stayed at the race host hotel so after Jared picked up his race materials and we sat through a race meeting and then I was able to get our room information. We had a lot to do before dinner since there was two transition areas to set up so we organized everything he needed for the race and headed to find the first transition.  It was just a bit down the road from the resort so we quickly drove down and set up the bike.  We were able to confirm the address for the T2 but we were surprised to hear it was over 30 miles away.  Hopefully, it wouldn’t be far from where we were planning to have dinner.  We took off to find the next destination and got another reminder that we were not in Boston when a black bear cub came darting out of the woods and across the street.  Jared swerved to try and avoid the poor animal but it still came crashing into the back side of my Hyundai.  From what we saw in the rear view mirror, he scurried off into the woods.  When we had a chance, we discovered that there was no damage at all to the car so he might not have hit us hard enough to not recover. I’ve decided to believe he is doing just fine now and maybe had a nasty headache all weekend.  Hopefully he learned his lesson and mama bear will remind him to look both ways when he crosses the street. 
We found the second TA quite easily and it was conveniently just down the road from where we had decided to have dinner.  Some online research on the drive down gave us some ideas and Jared opted for a Spanish/ Portuguese restaurant in Downtown Stroudsburg.  The menu looked great and it wasn’t far from our resort.  We made an early 6:30 reservation so we would have plenty of time to get home, do last minute preparations and go to sleep early.   Unfortunately, the restaurant had other plans and everything took an insane amount of time to get to the table.  Thankfully when the food did finally arrive it was mostly good and we were able to have a great meal.  We made it home in time for any last minute preparations and surprisingly fell asleep quickly in the world’s most uncomfortable bed.
Sunday morning the alarm went off at 4:00 am I tried to sleep a little longer while Jared got ready and then around 5:30 I drove him down to meet the shuttle to the start.  It was going to be a chilly start to the morning but it was dry.  After heading back to pack up our things and clean up I attempted to find my way to the first recommended cheering spot.  It was mile 32 on the bike so I assumed I had plenty of time.  After ending up at the exact same road closure twice, I wandered around some back roads that all looked perfect for a bear to come bolting out of and definitely gasped when some squirrels would run by.  I finally found my way to a parking lot in Shawnee PA where a small group of family members were gathered to cheer on their athletes.  Another woman told me you could track athletes on the Ironman site so I started carrying the ipad around to check on Jared’s status.  I learned that he had finished the swim in 26:40!  He was off to a great start.  We cheered on the leaders for a while and finally got a new update that he had crossed the 13.7 mark in just over 34 minutes and averaging just over 23 miles an hour giving me a better idea of when to expect him.  He came flying through a little earlier than I expected and looked very happy at that point.  My next planned cheering spot was T2 which was at the high school downtown.  I missed the turn to find parking in the back of the school and tried to do a simple u-turn to make it back but had to cross the bike route and the police stopped letting people through. I sat in my car at the light right in front of the race for over an hour. Unfortunately, this forced me to miss Jared coming off the bike and out for the run but I did see him ride in to T2 from my car and yelled and beeped for him.  He didn’t hear me. About a half hour later they finally let me through so I was able to find parking, a bathroom and a great cheering spot right at the finish line. I had the ipad in my hands and was furiously refreshing until it finally showed that he had crossed the 6.7 mile mark of the run. He was averaging around 9 minute miles for the run so I knew I just had about an hour until he would finish. I spent the rest of the time cheering on the racers and developed some serious finish line envy.  I wasn’t envious that they had just finished a 70.3 triathlon but I know that feeling of completing something exceptionally challenging and finally getting to the finish line.  There are no words to appropriately describe the sense of pride, elation and relief when you get there. It almost made me want to consider training for a half iron but I’m hoping the finish line in Central Park will be all the fix I need!
Jared crossed the finish line of the Ironman Poconos 70.3 in 5 hours 18 minutes and 44 seconds. Less than one minute slower than he finished the Patriot half iron in June which had a much less difficult course. He looked great when he finished and was able to walk around the Finish Line Festival to enjoy a beer and some food.
Ironman Poconos 70.3 Finish Life Festival!
We headed back to the car and drove straight to Shelton CT where my parents live. The stop there allowed us to do some laundry, have dinner taken care of (thanks Mom and Dad!) and most importantly have a comfortable bed to sleep in after a long day. While we both agree we probably won’t ever return to the Pocono Mountains again it was a great trip. The race went very well, there were no major travel catastrophes and we have that great story about the bear cub to share.  Jared is now considering full iron distances tri’s for next summer and I’m wondering if I can ride a bike for 56 miles. I’m not so sure it’s in the cards for me.
I have a several weekends where I can enjoy staying put in Boston but the NYC Marathon is now a month away!  Will I be ready?  I have the BAA Half Marathon and the pre race 21 miler coming up to make sure but the calendar never seems to care if I’m ready or not.  Race day is almost here.  If you would like to contribute to my NYC Marathon Fundraising Campaign please visit my page here: http://go.liverfoundation.org/goto/LauraNYC

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