Sunday, June 28, 2015

Floatation Therapy

I have not written for quite some time ... I have not taken a break from running; in fact, I ran the 2015 New Jersey Marathon in April.  I was quite happy with my overall feeling during the run...only stopping to walk at some mile markers and water stops, and keeping even pace throughout all 26.2 miles ... but more on that on a future post perhaps.  I want to write a little about my experience with FLOATATION therapy.

Floatation therapy, float therapy, also known as sensory deprivation or REST (reduced external stimulation therapy) has a multitude of documented beneficial physical, psychological, emotional, and spiritual effects... or so they say.  Even athletic and running improvement.

I have not gone into extensive research on the topic, so I do not claim any authority, but I want to document my own experience, even if briefly.

I tried floating last week at Tao Massage in Asbury Park, NJ ( What a wonderful, calm, and inviting place.  Everyone there was friendly and made me feel at ease.  My wife and I went for curiosity, and really for stress relief.

After a brief tour of the spa, and orientation of thr actual float ... i began my session.
 First, a shower, then I entered a tank filled with 10 inches of super saturated water, saturated with about 800 pounds of Epsom salts, enough to make you float easily.  the water was warmed to 98 degrees F, the idea being it would be the same temperature as your skin ... thus the border between you and the water and equally warm air would dissolve.  I closed the tank hatch, floated horizontally, and turned off the internal light.

Darkness.  complete darkness in this lightproof tank.

Silence, especially with wax earplugs, and ears were under the surface of the silky thick saltier than the Dead Sea water.

I wanted to relax, but of course this being my first Float experience, it had some getting used to.

I saw lights in my eyes.... through thr darkness, hallucinations? or just my rods and cones firing...

I felt spinning, I thought i was spinning so  much that my legs would hit the walls of the tank ... but they didn't.

I felt warm.  My face sweat to the point that I got up at least twice to open the hatch door for some cool air.  I even floated for some time with the door open...

I got up again to wipe the sting of the Epsom water out of my eyes ... the stinging of the unseen scratches in my skin went away quicker ...

I found the "beginner's" float neck pillow, helped me get more comfortable.

I slept.

then I relaxed.

I think.

I finished my hour session happy, with the thought that the bumps would just get better with time ...

but then, something extraordinary happened -- the aftermath:

Over the next few days, even the week, I felt my response to stress change.
Oh, the stress was still there, or rather, the Stressors -- work was extremely busy, (as you may know, I am a pulmomary and critical care physician), but for the first time in a long time, I didn't care as much, and it didn't bother me as much.

I was able to better work "in the present" without being too anxious about what was coming that night or even in the next 10 minutes.

This weekend work was extremely overwhelming and stressful -- well, at least on paper.  But I got through it calmly...and I didn't feel it in my chest as much.

And just now, I found a situation that normally would get me stressed and anxious (something about a vacation schedule no less!) ... but I just somehow shifted my focus to put aside for now ...

because I booked another Float session for this week.  And I'm looking forward to either letting it all melt away then... OR perhaps letting my sensory deprived mind deal with it better at that time, work out a solution, be creative, or just accept what experience comes ...

I have spent so much of my time plotting how to escape stress ... that perhaps dealing with the stress or at least not letting it bother me might be a better (and easier) solution.

definitely an aha moment.

I can't wait for my next Float session.

Saturday, January 10, 2015

Brrrrrrick Reservoir

(credit to

I can't feel my face.
It was cold this morning, and I will spare you any metaphors, cliched, clever, or otherwise.
Let's just say it was 16 degrees Fahrenheit, windy, and leave it at that.  (yes, know you Chicagoans and others laugh in our face ... but again, I can't feel my face.)

I tried to go tech-less this morning, no headphones, and I really did accidentally leave my phone at home ... but what about my watch?  A recent Runner Academy podcast episode featured Tyler McCandless and the concept of running without a watch, and just running by feel.  Well, I confess I kept my watch on, but didn't look at it until the end of mile one, when I made myself slow to a walk for a few seconds.  I'm trying to apply Matt Fitzgerald's 80/20 principle of running 80% of your miles easy (really easy apparently) and 20% hard, as most runners do "medium," which is not as beneficial physiologically and speed and endurance-wise.
At this point I'm still not 100% sure what my easy pace should be.  Some advice says your easy pace should be "50-75% of your 5k pace.)  Well, my 5k pace was 7-something, but that was in a previous life, (much has happened and I'm not that fast anymore), so I'll go with my half marathon pace of about 10:10, but my marathon pace was about 11:10.  so I targeted about 11:30 pace for my easy run today.  I didn't look at my watch until the end of mile 1, and I saw that it was 10:49.  Too fast?  I don't know, felt easy.  I ended up running 6.14 miles today, walking about 30 seconds every mile, to also get water from my car, and overall pace was 11:19.  Close to my target.  Felt kinda easy-medium, and I think I'm supposed to feel really easy, like I could run forever at that pace.  So I'm not sure if I'm happy that it was 11:19 .... OR MAYBE I'M JUST OVERANALYZING!!


It was cold, but still fun.  I still enjoy running outdoors.  Again, I hate the outdoors in general.  I don't even like walking the short distance from the car to the mall in cold weather.  But for some reason, when it's a run, it really does feel good.

So week one of the Runner Academy marathon training program is in the books.  Goal race is the New Jersey Marathon., on April 6, 2015. What I'm trying different this time is to really focus on the purpose of each run, whether it's a base building easy run, a tempo run, or others.  Also trying to keep up with the cross training and strength exercises.

Anyone else training for a Spring marathon in this cold weather?  The NJ Marathon perhaps?  (Hopefully I'll be able to feel my face by then.) comment below.

Sunday, January 4, 2015

Aha!! moment and the start of another Marathon training cycle.

According to Hal Higdon, Olympian Frank Shorter once said,

"You're not ready to run another marathon until you've forgotten the last one."

Well, I certainly have not forgotten about the 2014 Philadelphia Marathon, what with the freezing start, (I really wish I had brought more throwaways than my hoodie), the great course, seeing my family at mile 5), catching up with the 4:45 pace group (those first 13 miles just flew by), deciding to pass the pace group at mile 18 to then try to chase the 4:30 group for my goal, the much-appreciated Yuengling Lager and brownies the locals passed out near the turnaround in Manayunk around Mile 20 ... then feeling it ... slowing down ... feeling the pain ... the hurt ... getting passed by the 4:45 pace group and wondering why I was doing this ... and really saying to myself, "I don't have to run another full marathon again..." then getting a boost from my family again at Mile 26 to push through what seemed like a loooong 0.2 miles to get in at 4:52:33 ... in what became a beautiful 50 degree day.

but I forgot to write a race report about it.

Forward two recovery weeks later, as I was going to register for the 2015 Long Branch Half Marathon (the site of my half PR of 2:13:00), I was convinced by a buddy to just register for the full (New Jersey Marathon).

Sure, why not?

Then something I didn't expect happened -- I struggled internally for weeks with this question: Which training program should I use?  Geez, talk about Type A.

But my thinking and feeling was this.  Although to date I have 5 half marathons and 2 full marathons under my belt, I wanted, in a way, to "start over" with this next training cycle. I want to get it "right" this time.  I want each run to have a purpose, I want to have goals other than just mindlessly following the written mileage for the given day.  I want to cross train.  I want to watch my nutrition.

Now, of course there are many training plans to choose from, and each has it's own goals and methods to get you to the finish line.  And I'm of the belief that if you believe in the plan, and understand its purpose, and follow it without changing plans in the middle of the cycle, you will get to the finish line.  But yet I struggled with the specifics, and yes my thoughts were irrational at times:

-Jeff Galloway's plans for sure worked for me in the past, reduced chance of injury (and boy do I know about that), worked with my limited schedule, but I thought the weekend long runs were a little too long for me, but those long runs were made for a run-walk method, BUT I don't want to walk as much ... it feels good to run straight!

-Hal Higdon's plans are proven, but only one 20 mile run I thought?  and maybe the intermediate plans were too heavy for me?  AND life would get in the way when, according to the plan, the critical 20 miler right before the taper falls on a weekend when I know I won't be able to do it properly based on my own life schedule.  (But Galloway's programs taper earlier).

-Runner Academy Membership has its own programs too, similar to Higdon's, but with some specific cross training exercises, but still had the scheduling problem for me regarding the taper.

again, some irrational thinking I had!

so, I had to outline my goals for the next marathon:

-run injury free
-set a PR of 4:30
-reduce the walk breaks to only every mile or every water stop.
-feel good!
-be able to follow the training program closely so it doesn't interfere with my "other life" and work schedule.

Yes, transitioning from run-walk to more running has some ego component to it, but honestly it just feels good to run.  So, I thought, is is possible to choose a training plan that could address the criteria above?

I messaged Coach Matt Johnson of Runner Academy about tweaking the program / taper, and there was no problem ...(you can listen to my interview on Matt Johnson's Everyday Runners podcast here) and around the same time, I had my Aha! moment: 


Yes, Matt Fitzgerald stressed that in his 80/20 book, detailing the research that shows that running 80% of your runs easy is beneficial in so many different ways, and can help you run faster when it counts!

So for the most recent few runs I've gone on, I tried just that, I ran slower.  And what did that do?  I think it should address much of my concerns -->
-Slower running in training should reduce injury.  
-if all goes well, according the the 80/20 plan of running most runs slow, I'll have a better chance of setting a PR.
-Slower running allows me to run with very minimal, if any, walk breaks.  
-Running slow and straight feels good!
-yes, with Coach Matt Johnson's help I'm able to tweak the program a bit.

It felt great!  I didn't need to walk until I got water every 1.6 miles (length of the Brick reservoir loop) ... but I decided, at least for now, maybe I'll walk 30 seconds after every song on my playlist, just to ease into this.

So I chose one of the Runner Academy Membership plans,


I think I'm as excited as I've ever been to run!

Join me!

Saturday, November 8, 2014

Ponderings on A Rainy 20 (plus) Miler

-by Patrick Alcasid

Last Saturday, while tens of thousands were preparing for the 2014 TCS New York City Marathon, I had my last long run before my taper, in preparation for the 2014 Philadelphia Marathon, which, at the time of this writing, is two short weeks away.  (wow!).

My plan had scheduled me for a 23 mile run last weekend.  But, there was one little uncontrollable detail about that Saturday --

It was raining. 
and wet.
and cold.
and it would not let up.

I have run in the rain before, I remember one of my first runs ever was a 2 miler along the Point Pleasant Beach Boardwalk, back when I was doing the Couch to 5K program. Back then I wore my mickey mouse anorak poncho jacket, gym shorts, and tennis shoes, and run-walking along out in the rain I felt "DEDICATED."  Flash forward three years later and I'm wearing a Nike Storm Fit hooded rain running jacket, running cap, dry fit shirt and shorts, Nike elite socks, and Hoka Conquest shoes, and ready to embark on a 4 hour long run in the soaking rain and I felt "CRAZY."

It was wet.  I hate the wet.  It was cold.  I hate the cold.  I was considering doing it all in the gym, but I sucked it up, told myself it would good for the experience and the training, and headed down to the Manasquan Reservoir and did a cold and wet (soaking to the underwear wet) 21 miler.

Along the way, I did have some observations about running in the rain.
In no particular order:

1. You WILL get wet -- so get over it.


Well, duh, it's raining, of course you're going to get wet.  No, I mean you are going to get soaked.  I don't know why I was in such denial about getting wet.  I read the tips about not overdressing (so you don't have too many soaking heavy clothes), and using dry fit wicking material for clothes.  Well, yeah, I did all that, but I didn't realize how wet I would be:

SOAKED.  hair soaked.  skin soaked.  underwear and socks soaked.  Yes even with my Nike Storm Fit jacket.

Now, it was a moderate rain, but continuous.  But even with a light rain, if you're out there for hours, prepare to feel like you jumped into a lake.   Interestingly, my Hoka Conquests boast some "water drainage system" or something or other in the sole to help with puddles and wet conditions.  ooohhhhkayyy ... but no.  I tried to avoid some puddles (don't do that by the way, it's no use), but within the first mile I was "squish squish" squishing with every step.  I HATE that.  But I got over it, and marched on, for the sake of training.   By the end I was actually embracing the puddles.

credit samwinebaum

2. You might slow down --  and that's ok.

The rain, the ducking down to get the water out of my eyes, the constantly adjusting my wet earbuds or hood ties, the wet ground, the futility of  trying to avoid puddle -- all slowed down my pace.  And that's ok.  After all, this was a long run that I was to do at conversational pace.  I tried to run "by feel," but it just felt wet.  So onward I went, and overall felt great afterwards, probably thanks to the slow easy pace.  Gave me a chance to think of this blog post anyway.

3. It will strengthen you mentally.

The hardest part of running is just getting out the door.

Running in the rain is no exception.  As the raindrops were beating down on my windshield on the drive down to the reservoir, I though seriously about turning around and just going to the gym, or going home. BUT NO.  But I forced myself to drive there, step out of the car, and run.

The Manasquan Reservoir is a 5.1 mile loop, after each loop I would go to my car, sit inside for a bit of shelter, and food, and drink.  Every time I did that I was tempted to drive away.  BUT NO, I forced myself to get out again and again to run.

On my final loop, more than once I thought about just turning around and getting into the car to go home.  "15 miles was enough, I can do another 5 or so later in the gym."  BUT NO, I forced myself to keep going. 

I'm hoping these mental challenges will make future ones easier, like when I'm at the half way point of the Philadelphia Marathon, where the half marathoners split off and finish, and where you start the out and back ... where you see the faster runners coming home, and you still have a long way to go.  
What doesn't kill you make you stronger.  (yes that's a Kelly Clarkson reference. :) )

4. You're not the only crazy one!

There were plenty of dry-fit, rain jacketed-hooded runners splashing around the loop and trails on that rainy day. Most, if not all, gave a wave a knowing smile.  Camaraderie means no judgments, because we're all crazy.

5. I hate the outdoors -- except when I'm running outside.

I'm not the camping type.  I'm not the fishing and hunting type.  I'll take a nice, sleek, luxury plush hotel over a tent.  I hate the rain, I hate having to run from the car to the door of the mall if it's raining.  But after running outside in the rain, I fooled my brain into enjoying it.  Kinda.  No really, I'm glad I did it.

6. Wet trails are a nice soft surface.

As many of you might know, I enduring multiple running-related injuries including stress fractures, due what we now found out was severe osteoporosis.  My impact-averse bones actually enjoy trails, and the mud just made it softer.  Again, the soft surface plus a slower pace made me feel quite comfortable at the end of the run.

7. Band Aid Waterproof Tough Strips are friggin awesome.

Without going into gory details, a few days before this long run my dermatologist took a skin biopsy from the bottom of the foot (perfect site while training for a marathon!).  Doctor said I could run on it if it wasn't draining, but it was sore and it felt weird.  Well, I put some Polysporin on it, slapped a band aid waterproof tough strip on it, and reinforced it was nexcare first aid tape (probably didn't need that).  At the end of the 21 mile run, after peeling my soaked clothes off, the square of skin that the bandaid was on (and the wound) was THE cleanest thing on my body.  no dirt, no mud, no scratches.  and the wound looked great.

8. Beer never tasted so good.

A couple of weeks before this run I deprived myself of a Troegs Perpetual IPA that my brother in law had.  I only had a sip because it was the night before I ran the 2014 Hershey Half Marathon (see my post!).  But finishing the wettest (and one of the coldest) runs I've ever done, getting home, and getting everything off me, doing a ice-cold recovery soak, then shower, and change into sweats, I got to enjoy a surprise gift from my brother in law:

Ahhh .... now this is one of my favorite beers.  Deeeelicious.

So there you have it.  My observations from running in the rain.  I can't believe I stayed out that long.  21.3 wet miles in 4 something hours.  I still hate the wet.  I still hate the cold.  But I'm so glad I did this run, and did this outside.  Would I do a run this long outside in a downpour again?  Ask me later. I'm in my taper now.  Don't want to think about "embracing" this again:

Friday, October 24, 2014

The 2014 Hershey HILLY Half Marathon

It has been a while since I've written here.  After completing the 2014 Walt Disney World Goofy Challenge, I feared that my enthusiasm for running would drop off.  For the most part, it didn't, as I want running healthy to be a lifelong goal and lifestyle.

I did run (run/walk) a few races since the Goofy Challenge:

2014 Atlantic City April Fools Half Marathon -- 2:14:41
Disney's Castaway Cay 5K -- click for my previous report
2014 Long Branch Half Marathon -- 2:13:00 PR!!

And this past weekend, on October 19, 2014:

The 2014 Hershey Half Marathon!  -- 2:15:57

I had planned this half marathon as part of my training toward the 2014 Philadelphia Marathon (about 5 weeks away, yikes!).  My training was going well, basically doing almost a minimalist training plan with only 2 short runs during the week, and one long run during the weekend (what I basically did for the Goofy), and wishful thinking of a ton of cross training.  Did I mention wishful thinking about the cross training?

There was a stretch of about two months that I got off course, and my overall motivation dipped a bit.  My family and I had gone to the Philippines for vacation ...

Mayon Volcano, at Cagsawa, Legaspi, Philippines

The Philippines was a supremely awesome time, but with all the visiting relatives, driving to see the sights, eating, drinking, and basically 90 degree humid weather, I didn't get much running in.
I tried running on the treadmill in the hotel (gotta convert km to miles!) but even the air conditioning there wasn't enough to keep me comfortable.

When we got back to good ol' New Jersey, I tried to jump start my training again with a 15 mile run around the Manasquan Reservoir, taking a 20 sec walk break after every mile:

credit to

credit to

credit to

The Manasquan Reservoir is a beautiful place, has a glorious 5.1 mile scenic easy trail loop, and is as of right now my favorite local place to run.

However, pain in my shins after the 15 mile run plus some loss of motivation led me to almost defer out of the Hershey Half Marathon.  But a couple of long runs later, the date crept up, and next thing we knew, my wife, my son, and I were packed up and were driving to Hershey, PA!

On the 3 hour drive there, my sister (also running the half) texted this pic:

Yup, that's a Hershey's Special Dark Chocolate Martini!  We arrived, checked into the Hotel Hershey, dropped our bags in the room, and went over to the Harvest restaurant for said martini and some food ... I also had a delicious Troegs Hopknife (I didn't know Troegs was a Hershey-based brewery).

The next morning we headed to Hershey Arena for packet pickup and expo.
AT 10 minutes before 10am (the open of the arena), there was already a line outside the door waiting to get in.  Inside, the expo was small, with a few local vendors, the entire event sponsored by Capital Blue.  Plenty of free sample food, including bottles of iced tea, chocolate chip cookies, and sausage.

Packet pick up was smooth and straightforward, tables were clearly marked with letters corresponding to your last name.  After pickup there was a line to get a gear bag and to check your chip.  There was a separate section for Kids Fun Run registration.
Gear included a long sleeve tech shirt, and an average-quality drawstring bag with a few goodies and ads inside.

Afterwards we went on be tourists: chocolate world:

Hershey's Chocolate World was nice, "attractions" included a Disney-esque ride throught a "tour" of how chocolate was made, with a free KitKat at the end.  But basically a huge chocolate and souvenir shop (not that anything is wrong with that).
The best online review I read of chocolate world went something like ...

"Hundreds of people acting as if they've never bought candy before and will never have the chance again."


That evening was the Hershey's Kids Fun Run ...

Registration included a nice quality cotton T-shirt:

We expected some chaos for the kids fun run, but it was pretty well organized, as each age group was lined up along designated yard lines on the football field in Hersheypark Stadium and went off in waves towards a common finish line.

That night, we ate at Fenicci's of Hershey for some traditional night-before-the-race pasta loading. At the hotel I double and triple checked my gear, outfit, and pinned bib, and off to bed I went.

Couple gear notes:
Running in the Hoka Conquest.  I obsessed for a bit on what shoes to run in.  In training, I had used the Conquests for my long runs, and my Bondi B's for short runs.  But my long runs with the Conquests had been on trails, and my short runs with the B's were on road.  Now I was to run a long-run race on the road.  After realizing I was obsessing too much, I slapped myself and decided on the Conquest.
I was also wearing Zensah Ultra compression calf sleeves.  Wasn't a believer until probably a few weeks before the race when I tried them on for a long run and my shin pain was relieved.

Sunday, October 19, 2014

Usual race-day excitement was my natural 4am alarm, and I fueled in stages.  Had a nature valley protein bar, banana, and water first.  Then after getting ready I had some Hawaiian sweet bread I picked up at Target (broke the rule of don't try anything new on race day, but it was goood), and some Belvita crackers (one of my new fave quick eats).  Took a swig of Gatorade, and I headed downstairs to meet my sister at the Cocoa Beanery.  (They have this Hershey's Cocoa Cafe -- you really can't go wrong with mixing hot chocolate and coffee).

We walked out the front door and the shuttle bus to the race was waiting.  I guess we could have technically walked as well, as the start was less than a mile away, but there was a bus.  Transportation was provided from The Hotel Hershey and The Hershey Lodge.  Parking is also free for runners and spectators. We were dropped off at Hersheypark stadium with maybe only about 6 other runners on the bus, but before 7am there were already thousands there.

Starting area:
The starting area was located in the parking lot outside the Hersheypark arena.  There was a designated and guarded "runners only" area, but the security was not at all as strict as the other races I've participated in, especially the Disney Races.

There was bag check if you needed.
There was pre-race water station or food station that I could see.
There were plenty of port-a-potties, enough for the amount of starters, but they were located in a weird area, lined up right along the starting corrals, so at the start the runners running and the runners still in line for the potties were bumping into each other!

TIP: to avoid port-a-potty congestion, go into the arena, there were PLENTY of public restrooms there, and very short lines for both men and women.

This was a "self-corral" race, with areas marked for expected pace, but no distinct lines/borders/fences between each.  My sister and I lined ourselves at the front of the "11/12/13 minute mile" corral, in time for the National Anthem.

Cloud, few drizzles at the start, 40sF.  Cold at the start, but I ditched my throwaway hoodie within the first minute of the start.

The Course:
Picturesque, countryside, "local" feel.  The first 5 miles or so took you around the Hersheypark Stadium and Arena areas and into and THROUGH Hersheypark.  I was really looking forward to this as it reminded me of running through the theme parks at Walt Disney World.

But after the park, you were on your own with the fields and countryside of Hershey, PA, for the rest of the race.

Honestly it was very pleasant.  We ran through and around The Milton Hershey School, the streets lined with groups of students for high fives.
We ran through a golf course, even ran on some grass for a bit.
But the star of the show was the HILLS.

Here's the course elevation chart:

There was some hype about the hills prerace, and yes they were definitely there, with relatively few flat areas in my memory, but overall the hills were enjoyable.  Even that stetch after mile 5-6 (see above), although a long hill, was manageable.  I took walk breaks, and tried to time my walks when going up hill, but nothing consistent.

Crowd/spectator support was good, and local, but not dense or crowded.  Less than Disney, much more than Atlantic City or Long Branch.

I saw my family at Mile 11 for some high fives, and shortly afterwards there was even a "Chocolate Station," where they handed out Hershey Chocolate Bars.  I was looking forward to it, but at mile 11 it wasn't pretty, my clumsy hands dropped the first bar when trying to unwrap it, and I was equally inept at stuffing a second bar into my mouth that I ended up coughing it out.

I wish there was a water station right after the chocolate station, but you still had to run a bit.

Volunteers and Water stops:
Excellent and plentiful.  There were plenty of volunteers directing runner traffic at turns.
There was a water and Gatorade stop every 2-3 miles.  When I heard about this I wasn't sure if it was going to be enough, but it was just fine.

Finish area:
Inside Hersheypark Stadium.  There was an expected crowd right after the finish line to pick up medals, heat sheets, and goodie bag, but at that point I felt great.

I ended up doing a negative split as planned:

First 5 miles at 11min or just below
Next 5 miles at 10:30 pace or below
Last 3.1 miles a 9:30 to below 10 min pace

Official time:  2:15:57.

Overall I'm happy and proud, given the dip of motivation and training, and the hills!
I felt great afterwords, and just stretch out on the 10 yard line waiting for my family.

Very good half marathon, I had lots of fun.  There were about 4,100 finishers, not too congested at all.  Support was good, the course was hilly but you get to run through Hersheypark!  And ... they give out chocolate!

Now, stay tuned, because my next goal is the Philadelphia Marathon!
credit runnerwithanappetite.

Saturday, February 22, 2014

Running Outside -- running through my childhood

I love running outside! Today, after weeks and weeks or freezing cold Polar Vortex weather which forced me to run on treadmills, I ran outside today.  I ran around the Brick Reservoir, 9.41 miles at a nice 10:20 pace, and felt awesome.  I was reminded again of all my outside runs, and how much I love it.  

I took the above picture in December 2013, during one of my runs on the Wall Township Bike Path, which a nice 5 mile stretch of a traffic-free, mostly paved path from the historic and picturesque Allaire State Park and Village to Manasquan, where you can continue another 1.5 miles to Manasquan Beach.  (There are many more miles if you take the trails through Allaire Park and also a turn off in Wall Township to the Municipal Center).

I grew up about 3 miles from the beach.  Summers at the Jersey Shore (the rest of NJ says "down the shore," those of us actually on the shore don't) are busy and attract a lot of tourists -- and traffic.  So to get to the beach we would have to drive the 3 miles (occasionally bike), fight traffic, and then look for ever-elusive, impossible to find parking.  Winters were much better.  But I was always jealous of my friends and those I knew who lived right on the water, or at least walking distance to the beach, so they didn't have to deal with all of the to-do just to get there.

Enter my adult life, and running.  My wife, son, and I lived in a house 3 miles from the beach (not the exact house I grew up in, but close). Even from the beginning of my running days, I was so thrilled that I was finally able to run to the beach if I wanted to.  I would run to the beach and back as part of my regular route.  If my family wanted to go to the beach and boardwalk, we would still drive, but just knowing that I had the option to run there was great.

In the midst of my injury, we moved further away, but still close, 5 miles from the beach.  When I started to run again, the bike path was the site of my long runs.  What a beautiful path.  Not just for the nature, and the scenery, and serenity, and the lack of motor vehicles ... but it was actually a path through my childhood ...


(credit to pressofatlanticcity)

(credit to newjerseymemories)

(credit to allaire village)

Growing up, Allaire State Park and the Historic Allaire Village was one of the go-to class trip destinations.  It was also a great weekend or even afternoon retreat for our family.  You can walk through, have a picnic, explore the nature trails, see the preserved village, and even witness historical reenactments.  I remember specifically the blacksmith shop, and the general store.  I see the age, and some wear and tear, time has taken a toll on some of the buildings and foliage, but it's still beautiful, and a hidden gem.  And now I'm running through this village, a 40 year old man ... who's suddenly 8 years old again, running past the general store wondering what type of stick candy they have today.

(credit to fineartamerica)

A few miles later, through woods, and the field from the beginning of this post, with wildlife, including deer, you come to some civilization, the neighborhood of Allenwood.  The picture above is a historic picture of the Allenwood General Store, which is still there today, serving sandwiches, sodapop, and homemade ice cream.  I remember riding my bike here as a child with my friends, again getting candy.  And now, 30-something years later, as I run past it, I know I can always grab some hydration there during my long runs ...


(credit to main street gallery)

A few more miles, more woods, more neighborhoods, even passing behind Silton Swim School, a local institution where my dad, myself, and my son all learned how to swim ... then we hit the town of Manasquan.
Manasquan.  Ah, Manasquan.  Where to begin?  This is where I grew up.  This is my childhood.  Where I went to grade school, where I got skinned knees from riding my bike.  And this is Main Street, where I would skateboard with my friends when we thought we were cool.  It was your prototypical small town America.  Something we got to experience when we moved to the country from the city when I was 8 years old.  There was a time when our family knew pretty much everyone who owned every shop on Main Street, and I knew all the kids.  As I run through it now as an adult, I realize that the world has changed now, as has the town, but the Main Street Gallery above is owned by someone I graduated grade school with.


(credit to manasquan-nj)

So you run till you can't go anymore, and you have to turn around and go back -- when you hit Manasquan Beach, one of many beaches along the Jersey Shore ... but this one's another hidden gem.  No boardwalk, no rides, no vendors ... just locals, and local shops, and restaurants.  I run here now ... and realize ... as an adult, this is the site of my first official road race (since I enjoyed running), the 2012 Manasquan Midwinter Beach Run.  It is a small, local 2 mile run.  My first race.  But was my first step towards completing the 39.3 mile 2014 Walt Disney World Goofy Challenge.

And so we've come full circle.  When I run outside, I can run through my childhood, my past, and it helped me achieve my goals.  I love running outside!