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Race Recap: Toronto Triathlon Festival 2015

June 22, 2015 Leave a comment
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On the summer solstice, the sun rises over the CN Tower in downtown Toronto. A perfect morning for a race

Yesterday was the 2015 Toronto Triathlon Festival, my 2nd time racing this Olympic distance event.  At the end of the day, as I was removing my bike from the transition area to head home, one of the volunteers stopped me to ask how my race went.  “Fantastic”.  It was the only answer I could give, and it’s still the only answer I have now.  A lengthier blog post with stories and pictures is much more interesting, so here it comes.  There were ups and downs, but at the end of it all, it was Fantastic.  I can’t wait to race again next year!

The alarm went off at 5:00am.  Those are the perks of having amazing cousins who live in a condo less than 2km from the race site and who are willing to put you up the night before (even when they’re not in town themselves).  Coffee, breakfast, and out the door by 5:30am, and in the transition area before 6:00am.  The weather had been forecasting 80% chance of thundershowers all day for the past week, even up until I went to bed the night before.  This morning the skies were blue, clear, and it was a perfect day.  Take that, weather network!!

Last year it was still dark when we left the house.  Perks of racing on the summer solstice!

Last year it was still dark when we left the house. Perks of racing on the summer solstice!

Transition set up and such wasn’t too eventful or interesting, so let’s cut right to the race!  My goal, as I wrote last week, was simply to improve on last year’s race (same distance, same course).  Here we go…

The Swim

Last year there was no opportunity for a warm up or water familiarization.  Your wave was called, you jumped in off the pier, and within a few minutes the horn went off and so did you.  This year they created a section to let people swim a few laps to the side before their wave started.  Huge win.  I jumped in the warm up section and my chest instantly clenched.  The water was 14C – so fucking cold.  I couldn’t put my face in for the first few strokes.  But it helped a lot.  When I jumped in again for the actual race I wasn’t nearly as cold.

graceful as ever...

graceful as ever…

The swim was good.  It felt effortless – which is to say, during the race, it felt lazy.  I was breathing well, my stroke was smooth, and had very few collisions with other swimmers.  I thought for sure I was swimming slow because it felt so easy.  I was relaxed, breathing well, and wasn’t even cold.  The course felt long, but I just kept pushing.  About 3/4 of the way through I realized I was pulling unequally hard with my right arm, and my right shoulder was about done.  I tried to start favoring my left arm instead, but it just didn’t have the same power, so I switched back.  It worked fine, but my right shoulder felt like trash when I was done.  All said though, I think, one of the better swims I’ve had.  My wife called out my splits when I got out of the water.  “Roughly 30 minutes” she said.  Amazing!  I was ahead of my goal pace.  What a great start!

2014 Swim: 34:29

2015 Swim: 31:19

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The Bike

The bike ride is an amazing route along the Gardiner Expressway and Don Valley Parkway, up to Eglington Avenue, and then back.  It’s a very gradual uphill outbound, and the equivalent downhill return.  I expected the uphill to be a bit of a slow climb for me, and it was.  But not as slow as I expected.  I did better than I usually do using my gears to help the climb.  That was rewarding.  The downhill though is the story of the bike ride.  That was fast and smooth, I was able to get into my heaviest gear, lean into the aerobars, and CRANK.  It felt so good to go so fast.  I was in love.  Of course, I didn’t go that fast for that long, and not nearly as long as I went slowly uphill, but it was a lot of fun.

The first/last quarter of the ride along the Gardiner Expressway and through the CNE grounds are relatively flat.  On the return I started to fatigue.  In hindsight, I should have taken some calories in during the bike beyond just my sports drink.  My lower back was tired.  My shoulder, still barking from the swim, was now straining in the aerobars.  My hamstrings were starting to bark.  I tried to adjust my pedal stroke to keep focusing on a full circle effort and using all the muscles in my legs, but the adjustment was too late.  As beautiful as the first 3/4 of the ride went, the last 1/4 was a grind.  I didn’t lose much power or speed, but I beat myself up in the process.  And I was about to pay the price…

2014 Bike: 1:23:18

2015 Bike: 1:23:47

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The Run

Remember that part on the bike where I should have taken in calories?  Remember those back and hamstring pains?  Yep – as soon as I started out on the run I remembered them too.  I had two gels in my jersey pockets for the run, one of which must have fallen out during the bike ride.  The other was consumed within the first kilometer.  In my run training I was used to running on sore quads – the pains in my back and hamstrings were a new distraction and I did a poor job of shutting them out.  My run was embarrassing if not a little funny.  I had so little left in the tank at this point.  The run course was perfectly flat, with a nice breeze coming off the waterfront.  It didn’t matter.  At best I was running a 2:1 run/walk ratio and pushing through a real mental grind.  In those first few kilometers I talked myself out of DNF’ing.  By about the midpoint my back and hamstrings stopped barking.  I was back to the usual running aches that I was used to, and I started to string some longer running stretches together.  But it was still slow and with a lot of walk breaks.  And over the course of the run, the sun got higher in the sky and it got noticeably warmer.  It was a tough run.  I beat myself up too much in the swim and the bike and didn’t leave enough in the tank.  Whoops.

2014 Run: 1:14:17 (yuck)

2015 Run: 1:17:04 (double yuck, but honestly not as bad as I had feared)

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Overall, including transitions?

2014: 3:17:40

2015: 3:17:57

[sigh]  I didn’t quite make my goal of improving on last year’s results.  It’s amazing how, over a 3hr+ race, 17 seconds makes all the difference.  That being said, I had a great swim, and a great bike, and I know I gave everything I had to give on the run.  So I’m happy with it.  Maybe I should have taken in some calories on the bike?  Or maybe I should have just tied my damn shoes a bit faster?  Whatever – it was a great race!

Though, a bit of a beef with the final results.  Look at the picture above:  I’m crossing the line pretty damn close to 3:20:57, and I know my swim wave started 4 minutes after the first wave.  So my time should be the clock less 4 minutes, right? Math?  Maybe the wave started late?  Who  knows.  But I saw the time when I was coming through the finish chute and thought for sure I had – just barley – best last year’s time.  Rats.

Amazing day.  Amazing race.  I missed a PB time by a mere 17 seconds.  I feel really good about it.  And as much as my body aches today (and boy does it ever) I’m happy with my race.  Now to take a few days to recover and start to think about what’s next.

All photos credit to my amazingly supportive wife, who not only got up at the shit crack of stupid to stand around in a park for 3+ hours while I raced, but she actually had fun, cheered me the whole way, and managed to get some great pics with nothing more than an old iPhone4.  I love you so much sweetie.  Your support means everything to me!!!

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Race Recap – Toronto Triathlon Festival

July 14, 2014 2 comments

TTF

I’m having a hard time writing this recap.  My thoughts are all over the place.  This race was many things – Intense, Exhilarating, and Wet.  Very wet.

I’m so luck to have a pair of very close cousins, who happen to have condos in the same building, right in downtown Toronto.  Amazing to be able to visit great people, and have crash space a 20 minute walk away from the start line.  Being so close meant I got to sleep in until 4:30 yesterday morning (I’m not kidding).  I was surprisingly awake at that hour.  My wife was not.  What a trooper she was getting up with me to come cheer me on (and take blog pics)!!

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Isn’t everyone out with their bike at 4:30am?

In transition before daybreak - the life of a triathlete

In transition before daybreak – the life of a triathlete

The forecast called for rain.  But it was dry when I woke up.  I was really happy – and celebrated way too soon.  The rain came.  Oh boy did it ever.  It rained rather heavily in the hour leading up to the race, while I was pacing around transition and waiting for the swim start.  The swim start was even delayed by about 10 minutes due to weather.

Rain!  The blue band across the top is my wife's umbrella.  She tried to stay dry.  It didn't work.  What a trooper!

Rain! The blue band across the top is my wife’s umbrella. She tried to stay dry. It didn’t work. What a trooper!

Once the race started, though, the weather was an afterthought.  This was my 8th triathlon, and the first time I wasn’t in the first swim wave.  It was kinda fun getting to watch the elite’s go off before me (and not have to start my swim with them).  8 minutes later it was my turn.

The Swim – 1,500m – 34:29

That's me, in the green cap and black wetsuit

That’s me, in the green cap and black wetsuit

The swim was a deep water start.  They had a floating pontoon perpendicular to the brake wall.  There was no warm up swim permitted (I’m not really sure why).  About 1 minute before our wave start, we all walked out and jumped into the water.  And swore.  A lot.  Holy shit that water was cold.  Really cold.  They announced the temperature as 17°C – they must have been lying.  I don’t believe ice baths are that cold.  It was really cold.  Pretty soon all the swearing subsided as we started to realize this wasn’t actually funny – it was really cold and uncomfortable.  And then the horn went off – no warm up, frozen muscles, and almost 100 men aged 25-35 tightly packed tightly against the starting pontoon.

They call the start of a triathlon swim ‘the washing machine’.  I’ve understood the term, but never truly experienced it.  Now I have.  It refers to the froth of water at the start of an open water swim, when a bunch of swimmers are tightly packed and competing for the same space.  Yep – that’s what happened.  I got kicked, and punched, and clawed (seriously triathletes: please clip your fingernails!!!).  Somewhere near the first buoy I remember having a thought – between the cold, and the collisions, if I was any less comfortable in the water than I am (and I consider myself a very confident swimmer), I might have been in trouble in that swim.  Sure enough, my wife would tell me later she was amazed at the number of swimmers who were pulled out of the water and DNF.  Even as late as the last buoy I took a heavy kick to my right shoulder and was worried I was actually hurt.  What a mess that swim was.

I’m not happy with a 34:29 swim – but it was a middle of the pack swim for my age group, and given the conditions, it could have been a lot worse.  The race goes on!

The Bike – 40km – 1:23:18

Heading out on the bike.  The road is a wet slippery mess!

Heading out on the bike. The road is a wet slippery mess!

For as bad as the swim was, the bike went great!  The bike course was amazing – riding along the expressways of downtown Toronto.  It was a generally uphill on the way out, and downhill on the way back, with a bit of a headwind on the return.  The biggest challenge was the wet roads, and the puddles of standing water that needed to be dodged.  But credit to the race organizers – they had volunteers out along the whole course, and had a volunteer or a marking pylon at every standing puddle.  They were all over it.  They did a great job!!

Not much to tell about the bike ride – I put my head down and rode hard.  I kept comparing it to my last Olympic distance race, only 3 weeks prior, where the bike ride went so poorly.  This time, my back and my glutes didn’t give out on me.  I was riding just as hard, if not harder through the final quarter of the ride as I did in the first quarter.  I wasn’t wearing a pace watch, but my gut told me this ride went well.  And I was right.  Nearly 12 minutes faster than the same distance 3 weeks ago, and 8 minutes faster than my Olympic distance bike split personal best.  Hot damn!!  My wife gave me my time as I was running back into transition – what a motivator that was!!!

The Run – 10km – 1:14:17

500m to go...

500m to go…

There’s not much to say here.  I’m a shitty runner.  I have been since I started, and I still am.  I find it amusing that my run time split of 1:14:17 is 16 seconds slower than my run split 3 weeks ago.  Apparently I’m a very consistently shitty runner 🙂

Unlike last time, there was no back pain to slow me down.  There was no pain at all.  My heart rate was out of control, right from the start though.  I took a lot of walk breaks trying to control my heart rate, but every time I started running again it skyrocketed.  I tried to settle into a run/walk routine to manage this.  I’m not sure how well it worked.  I stopped at each aid station – drank the Gatorade and dumped the water on my head.  By about half way through the run the sugar from the Gatorade was playing havoc with my GI system, so I switched to water only.  I’m not sure if it made a difference.  It wasn’t a glamorous run, but it was consistent, and wasn’t worse than my previous Olympic distance run splits.  I didn’t give back the time I earned on the bike, so I’m happy with that!

The Finish – 3:17:40.93

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My biggest fan!

God that felt good – a personal best by 6 minutes!  Yeah Buddy!!!  My wife and cousin were there to meet me at the finish line.  So awesome having a cheering squad!!  And around my neck: a finisher’s medal.  Believe it or not, this is my 8th triathlon, and that’s my first finisher’s medal.  I guess they’re not as common as in running races.  It means a lot to me to finally have a triathlon finisher’s medal.  Very excited about that!

By the end of the run my GI havoc was reaching near critical levels.  There were burgers and free beer in the finishing area, and I turned them both down (I know!  Weird, right?!)  I took 3 bites of a banana – that was all I could handle.  It was a couple hours before that settled down.

The race was designed with the finish line being about 800 meters away from the transition zone, so my cheering squad and I had to walk back to pick up my bike & gear after.  And wouldn’t you know – the skies opened up again.  It POURED!  Easily one of the top 10 heaviest rains I’ve ever been in.  Ever.  My wife and cousin had their umbrellas – not that it made any difference – but me, I just let the rain fall on me.  I could hardly see.  I felt bad for the racers still on course (the sprint distance race had just started).  It was pouring rain.  I collected my bag from the bag check area – it was sitting in an inch deep puddle.  I went back to get my bike and transition gear – which was also sitting in an inch deep puddle.  Oh well – lay it all out to dry in the basement when I get home.  I’m not planning on any training rides or runs for the next few days!

It’s now the day after.  I’m working from home today – it’s easier to get up out of my chair and pace, and stretch, when I’m not in the office.  My quads are still buzzing a bit, but I really feel the fatigue in my traps, my neck, and all down my back.  Even my arms have a subtle dull ache, and there’s a really good scratch on one arm from another swimmer.  Tylenol and I are good friends today.  And I’m eating EVERYTHING in the fridge!!

I ache, but I’m really happy.  I set my sights on this as my ‘A’ race, and I feel like it all came together.  Smashing 12 minutes off my bike split from last race felt amazing, and not giving anything up on the run as a result felt pretty good too.  I even survived the frigid washing machine!  God I love this sport!!!

With my ‘A’ race in the books, the rest of the summer is all about fun and relaxing.  In 2 weeks I’m racing in the Niagara Try-A-Tri race with a couple highschool buddies.  I’m really looking forward to that.  Otherwise the rest of the summer is about swimming, biking, and running when I want to.  I won’t start thinking about next race season for several months still – for now, I’m just going to enjoy this one!

– D

 

Monday Morning… or Why Last Week Was Pretty Awesome!

January 13, 2014 1 comment

ride alarm

Holy crap I’m tired this morning.  It is a miracle that I got out of bed at 5:15 and got my work out in as planned #WIN.  But I’m dragging my heels a bit now.  I really hate Monday Mornings!!

I was thinking about yesterday’s Week in Review post (no you’re posting a link to your own previous blog post!) in which I completed roughly 4.5 hours of training.  That didn’t seem like a very large number to me, to be honest.  It was a whole week of work – it must have been more than that!

It felt like I did a hell of a lot more than 4.5 hours though.

But then I looked back a little bit more at my weekly training stats from 2013 (thank you BeginnerTriathlete.com for being so awesome in helping me with these numbers).  4.5hrs/week is a little low compared to January/February/March of last year, when I was training for my first half marathon, and subsequent 30km running race.  But once we got into Triathlon season my weekly effort went way down.  In fact, excluding race weeks, 4.5hrs in a single week is the most overall volume I’ve put into any single week since May 2013.

So that’s why I feel so damn tired this morning.  Even if it’s not as much training as I want to do – and should be doing – it’s a hell of a lot more than my body is used to doing.

Comparing myself to some ideal is not a useful exercise.  Comparing myself to the training schedules I read in books, or on other tri blogs is equally useless.  Much like I need to race my own race, I need to train at my own pace.  So I’m going to stop beating myself up thinking I should be doing more, but focus on the positives of what I did achieve.  I had my best training week in over 8 months!  That’s something to celebrate!

And I think I’ll celebrate it with a nap when I get home from work.  Stupid Mondays!!!

-DO’G

238.4

April 6, 2013 Leave a comment

weight-loss-scale

Image from www.sheknows.ca

I dared to step on the scale today at the gym before my workout, for the first time since my trip to Whistler (and all the beer consumed in its pubs) – for the first time since Around The Bay – and for the first time since my “recovery week” after ATB…

238.4lbs.  The first time I’ve been sub 240lbs since my University days (almost 10 years).

YEAH BUDDY!!!

And now to celebrate, an evening of beer and pub food!

…you may now return to your regular scheduled Saturday.

– DO’G

Race Day: Grimsby Half Marathon

February 24, 2013 2 comments
Look at that bling!

Look at that bling!  I’m a Half Marathon finisher!

Today was Race Day – the Grimsby Half Marathon.  My first half marathon.  I know it really was just a glorified long training run, but it feels really cool to say I’ve run a Half Marathon.  Really Cool.

Race day temperature was roughly -2°C, overcast, and with a headwind on the return leg of the run.  That’s what I get for running a race in February.  It was cold.

My wife and I met a very nice lady in the starting coral – it was her 49th half marathon.  Next weekend she’ll run her 50th.  The following weekend she’ll celebrate her 50th birthday.  50 before 50 – what a cool goal.  She had such a relaxed attitude that really helped put me in the right frame of mind – she’s done a bunch of these, and she’ll do more.  She wasn’t stressing about a PB – she was racing because she enjoyed it.  Such a perfect perspective for the start line.

I decided not to run with music or my coaching app.  I had no sense of pace other than listening to my body.  I wanted to try going headphone-free on this race to see how it would work before my ‘A’ race next month.  I had my phone in my pocket – I knew the race started at 9:15 and had a 3hour limit.  I knew I ran a 21k training run last week in 3:10:00.  My goal was to finish in under 3 hours before they closed the course.

The race started easy enough – the gun went off, and 145 people started running.  My wife and I started right in the middle of the pack, but she quickly ran ahead of me (as I knew she would).  So did most of the runners.  By the 5km point I’d settled in with runners of my pace: me.  I had the road to myself.

I checked my phone every few kilometer markers for a sense of time.  I tried to do the math to guess at my pace (note: math while racing is apparently a lot harder than math while not racing).  The first half of the race went well, but then slowly my pace started to fall off.  Gotta finish in 3 hours – I want to run across that finish line before they tear it down.

I was able to keep strong until about the 15km mark, at which point the walk breaks became more frequent and the legs felt more like bricks.  The road was pretty quiet – there were less police and volunteers at intersections, and not many runners around.  It was a mental battle to remind myself this was a race, and to keep pushing at race pace – I wasn’t out doing a training run by myself.

The few runners I was using as pace bunnies were slowly getting away from me.  I kept looking over my shoulder to see how many runners were coming up behind me – I didn’t want to be the last one to finish.  I didn’t see many people at all.

By 18km I had caught up to one of my pace bunny runners (or rather, he had fallen back to me).  A pair of runners from behind had also caught us.  They were nice chatty folks and we pushed each other forward.  But I knew in the back of my head: there’s nobody behind us now.  I’m going to finish last.

We stayed together down the home stretch to the last hill, at about 20.75km (brutal!!!).  All 4 of us were out of gas; all 4 of us walked up the hill.  I looked over my shoulder and saw a truck driving slowly behind us picking up the pylons and road signs from the race.  They were closing the course.  I had to finish.  The last couple hundred meters were an all out 4-way sprint race (as best any of us could sprint at that point… I’ll bet a potato sack race could have gone faster).

I ended up finishing the race in 2:38:30.8 – 144/145 racers (a whole 4.5 seconds out of last place).  Bam – not last!

Apparently math is hard while running – I beat my training pace by a whole 31.5 minutes, and was ahead of the course cut off by over 20 minutes.  Those cheeky volunteers – they were closing the course early!!!

See!  I finished!

See! I finished!

My wife ended up finishing with a PB time of 2:01:42.3, which is amazing, good enough for 102/145 racers.  I’m really proud of her.

So I can now say I’ve finished a Half Marathon!  That’s a pretty cool item off the bucket list.  More to the point, I was able to run 21.1km and maintain a 7:30/km pace (which is really good for me – much better than last week’s training run, which left me a little nervous).  I’ve got some work to do in the next month to be able to run another 9km at the end of that, but if I can keep the same pace, I should be able to run The Bay in 3:45:00 – well ahead of their 4:30:00 cut off time (unless they close that course early too… cheeky volunteers!).

And with 8,500 people registered for The Bay, hopefully I can finish better than 2nd last place 😉

-DO’G

Cold, Long Run

December 23, 2012 2 comments
Re-using my Wetaskiwin picture... just to emphasize the cold

Re-using my Wetaskiwin picture… just to emphasize the cold

Today in Siberia Wetaskiwin it was -19°C with a wind chill of -28°C.  Fucking cold.  Nevertheless, and thanks to a wonderful pep talk from my wife, I went out for my long run.  7 laps of a 2.01km city block.  Mid way through the 2nd lap I stepped awkwardly off  a sidewalk curb completely masked by unshoveled show and rolled my ankle a bit.  By the end of the 4th lap my water bottle was frozen shut.  By the end of the 6th lap the sweat on my eyebrows had also frozen.  What an experience that was.  But in the end I completed my 14km run in under 1:45:00.  I’ll take it.

In fact, I’m actually pretty happy with it.  I stuck to my plan and executed the whole distance.  I didn’t bail out.  Not due to cold, or discomfort, or cold, or frozen water, or cold.  I didn’t quit.  I finished strong.  As a Weekend Warrior, that’s what we shoot for – finish strong!

The run also put me over the 100km mark for the month with a full week to go.  Holy Hell!  That’s the first time I’ve eclipsed that milestone by a long shot.

No biking this month

No biking this month

It actually feels really good to look at those numbers.  I’m sticking with the plan.  I’m getting my long runs in (even when it’s crazy-cold).  I’m actually improving.  This is pretty damn sweet!

Now, if it’s all the same to you, I think I’ll avoid using my legs in any way for the rest of the night.

~DO’G

Race Day: Hamilton 10K

November 3, 2012 2 comments

Confidence before the race… sure, we can do this…

Okay, first to deal with the elephant in the room – no post in almost 3 weeks.  Bad blogger Dave.  No sense dwelling on the mistakes of the past.  I’m back, and hopefully a bit more consistently this time!

Today was race day – my first foray into the 10K running distance courtesy of the Hamilton Road2Hope Marathon weekend.  I got to share the running experience with my cousin, and two of my close friends here in Hamilton.  It was a lot of fun to have a “team” – I’m very used to doing my triathlons on my own.  Having family and friends in the starting chute with me was a very nice new experience.  As we were standing in the chute, waiting for the count down, we decided that next year we need to make team t-shirts.  If only we’d thought of that sooner!

None of us are great runners.  We were each there to try our first 10K (in fact, I think for all of us, our first road running race).  We were joking about our time goals before the race started.  My goal was to finish in under 1:20:00.  My friends were joking they simply wanted to finish in under 2:00:00.  It’s good to have goals, I guess.

There’s something special about Race Day I’ve decided.  The energy, the enthusiasm, the vendors and food tents, the t-shirts and goodie bags, the music and announcements through the PA system – all of it gets you ready to perform.  I kinda wish I could have PA speakers and enthusiastic announcers every time I stepped out my door to go for a run.

The four of us managed to stay… roughly… together for about the first kilometer before our different paces started to reveal themselves.  I’m glad it played out that way.  I was worried about running with a group that we would try to all stick together the whole time instead of each trying to run our personal best.

And it turns out I did run a personal best.  Well, of course I did – it was my first 10K.  But I actually was pleasantly surprised when I rounded the last corner towards the finish line and could see the time clock ticking away.  1:09:(and ticking).  I could beat 1:10:00 – I knew I could make that final push.  The crowd was cheering.  The clock was ticking down right in front of me.  And I did it.  1:09:41.  For reference, that’s the same pace as 34:50 per 5K, just a hare off my 5K Personal Best of 34:48 pace.  Yep – very happy with that result.  My cousin finished in roughly 1:04:00, and even my friends (who wanted to beat 2:00:00) finished in roughly 1:17:00.  A great race for everyone!

I finally have my first Finisher’s Medal

So that’s it.  My 2012 Race Season is over.  I’m really happy with it.  Think I’m going to take a few days to decompress, then start thinking about my off season goals, and 2013 race plans.  But don’t worry, I won’t disappear from blogging again 😉

When do you start making plans for the new year?

PS – Very impressed by the organizers of the Hamilton Road2Hope Marathon organizers, in spite of tomorrow’s Marathon being full they have opened an additional 250 spots for racers from the area who were signed up and had trained to run this weekend’s NY Marathon.  Great of them to find a way to help pick up some of those displaced runners as we all try to get back on our feet after Hurricane Sandy.

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