Runner’s Journal: The Virginia Beach tune-up with Dodge

Parents with young children rarely experience the freedom of a weekend getaway. Weekend errands and weekend soccer games and weekend family functions, sure, but not weekend getaways. For my family, there also are the weekend long runs, which we’ve learned will chew up an entire Sunday morning as you work your way up to 20 miles in your marathon training schedule. My most recent weekend long run, however, doubled as a long weekend getaway for my wife and me when Dodge, sponsor of the hugely popular Rock ‘n’ Roll Marathon series, invited me to the Virginia Beach Half Marathon and gave us a sleek 2011 Dodge Durango Citadel to drive to and from the race. A chance to break up my training routine while staying at an oceanside hotel and spending several lazy hours next to a pool? Sign us up. A fully loaded Durango and a break from the kids too? Shoot, now you’re just spoiling us, Dodge.

Fortunately, the race itself didn’t go as well as I had hoped. Wait…fortunately? Yep. I’ll admit that finishing four minutes slower than my goal wasn’t really how I wanted to cap off the weekend, and as my wife can attest to, I was pretty disappointed when I crossed the line with a time of 1:34:20, a full minute and a half slower than my PR and significantly slower than my goal of 1:30. Still, a runner can learn something from almost every race, no matter their time — in fact, slower times often yield the most significant lessons — and just as I learned a few things from my first three half marathons, I came back from Virginia Beach on Labor Day better prepared to run my first marathon in Chicago next month. So what did I learn?

I need to run my race. I went out too fast last weekend, and it cost me. I had a plan heading into the race, looking to run the first 8 miles in 56 minutes (7:00 per mile) before picking up the pace over the final 5 miles and finishing under 1:30. Instead, I got caught up in the moment and came through the first mile at 6:40. I settled into a 7:00-per-mile pace after that before falling off a bit around mile 6, coming through the 8-mile marker at about 56:30 and finding little left in the tank when it came time for the strong finish. My fast start alone didn’t cost me four minutes off my finishing time (more on that below), but it certainly didn’t help. No matter what my strategy ends up being for Chicago, I’ll need to stay under control early and stick to the plan. If anything, I’d rather start out too slow than too fast, since I’ll have plenty of time to make up for a sluggish first couple of miles. Whatever race you’re running, spend some time thinking about how you want to run based on what you’ve learned during your training, and do your best to stick to that plan, at least early on. You can always adjust mid-race if needed, but a fast start could spell trouble later in the race.

I’ve been training hard. It sounds a little silly, but it’s true. I felt tight and worn out Sunday, almost from the start, whereas I felt loose and fresh when I set my PR in Cleveland last May. The difference? I tapered my training down the week leading up to the Cleveland Half Marathon whereas the Virginia Beach race capped a challenging week of training, including a tough speed workout Wednesday morning. Tired legs combined with a fast start depleted my reserves pretty quick and I never really recovered. Be sure to take some time off during your training, especially leading into any big races. Fresh legs are vitally important to a quality race, as I learned again last weekend. In fact, I elected to take Tuesday off this week as well, feeling like my body could use an extra day of rest. Don’t be afraid to cut yourself some slack if your body’s telling you it needs a break.

The marathon is going to be even tougher than I thought. With three previous half marathons and several training runs longer than 13 miles under my belt, I expected to feel better and run faster last weekend. I don’t want to overreact to one disappointing performance during what has been a challenging training routine, but Virginia Beach reminded me that I need to have my expectations in check heading into Chicago. I recently saw a t-shirt that said, “A marathon is only a 10K with a 20-mile warmup.” I wouldn’t have fully understood what that meant six months ago or even three months ago, but I get it now. A marathon is 26.2 miles long, but with many of the popular marathon programs maxing out at 20-mile training runs, the race itself — the true physical, mental and emotional battle that every marathoner must endure, especially a first-timer — doesn’t start until around mile 20. Any ill-advised notion that I may have had of running a free and easy race in Chicago next month flew out the window in Virginia Beach. And that’s a good thing.

The new Durango is one hell of a ride. My wife and I spent roughly 20 hours going to Virginia Beach and back to Ohio last weekend, and we rode in style and comfort the entire time. Our blackberry-colored Durango was a beautiful SUV — just ask the people who gawked at us when we drove by — with a tan leather interior that perfectly complemented the car’s impressive exterior. The onboard GPS worked like a snap and the ventilated seats (or “butt fans,” as my wife called them) were awesome. Unfortunately, most of our drive in was done late Friday night and it rained for most of our drive home, but the few photos I was able to snap of the Durango between raindrops are in the slideshow at the top of the page (along with some of me before, during and after the race). The only downside came Tuesday morning…when we had to give the Durango back, but only after they rejected my offer of a straight-up trade for our 2006 minivan. Rats.

Finally, I’d be honored to join Team Hoyt some day. I’d heard the unbelievable story of Dick Hoyt and his son Rick before, but last weekend marked my first exposure to Team Hoyt. Rick was diagnosed as a spastic quadriplegic with cerebral palsy when he was born in 1962, and although Rick couldn’t walk or speak, Dick and his wife Judy were determined to help their son experience a life filled with community, education, sports and a future career. From

In the spring of 1977, Rick told his father that he wanted to participate in a 5-mile benefit run for a Lacrosse player who had been paralyzed in an accident. Far from being a long-distance runner, Dick agreed to push Rick in his wheelchair and they finished all 5 miles, coming in next to last. That night, Rick told his father, “Dad, when I’m running, it feels like I’m not handicapped.”

Thirty four years later, the father-son duo has competed in more than 1,000 races, including marathons, duathlons and six Ironman triathlons. Absolutely incredible. In the same spirit, the Team Hoyt runners I saw on the Virginia Beach course were pushing strollers with physically handicapped children who wanted to run the race but were unable to compete on their own. The course was filled with people in their red Team Hoyt shirts who rightfully were the recipients of more applause and words of encouragement than any of us mere solo runners. Every time I passed a Team Hoyt duo (and, in some cases, trio), I tried to imagine how much tougher the race would be if I were pushing a stroller too. My wife even said one of the Team Hoyt runners was trying to finish in better than a 5-minute-mile pace. It’s inspiring stuff, to be sure, and I’d love to one day become a Team Hoyt member.

The race may not have gone as I had hoped, but you won’t find me complaining. This was my second Rock ‘n’ Roll Half Marathon, having run the Vegas race last December, and the Virginia Beach Rock ‘n’ Roll Half Marathon was every bit as memorable as my first experience. Live bands dot the course, providing some unique entertainment while you’re sucking wind and begging for the finish line, and the crowd was energetic and highly supportive. Even better, I got to take a nap after the race, which would have been a much dicier proposition at home with three kids running around. Dodge was a gracious host and they put on a fantastic race. Now, with just 30 days to go before the Chicago Marathon, it’s back to the training grind — and minivan — for me.

Jamey will be updating his Runner’s Journal a couple times a month as he trains for the 2011 Chicago Marathon – his first full marathon – on October 9. Only 30 days to go…but who’s counting, right?! Email with comments, questions or your own thoughts on running, and see why Jamey runs.


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Marathon tune-up: The Virginia Beach Half Marathon

Training for a marathon can be grueling. Most weeks, my training consists of four runs: speed-based workouts on Tuesday and Thursday, a shorter easy run on Saturday and a long run on Sunday. At the moment, I’m putting in just over 30 miles a week, and by the end of my Sunday long run, I’m worn out with only a day to recover before it starts all over on Tuesday. It’s a schedule that’s served me well for the past year — I followed a similar routine with modified mileage while training for each of my first three half marathons — but, as you can imagine, things tend to get a little repetitive and stale, especially in the heat and humidity of an Ohio summer when the race you’re training for is still months away. But this weekend, I get a break.

Granted, running the Virginia Beach Rock ‘n’ Roll Half Marathon Sunday morning doesn’t seem like much of a break, but our friends at Dodge, one of the sponsors of the excellent Rock ‘n’ Roll series, are giving me a much needed and appreciated mental break from my training routine. After dropping our kids off with the grandparents Friday afternoon, my wife and I will load up a fully loaded 2011 Dodge Durango Citadel and head for Virginia Beach. It’s a long drive from Ohio — about nine hours, give or take — but we’ll be riding in style in the blackberry-colored Durango (pictured below) and, with no kids clamoring for snack stops and bathroom breaks, it’ll be the most peaceful nine-hour drive we have had in quite some time.

The unique circumstances of this particular trip aside, the race will serve as an excellent training barometer with the Chicago Marathon just over a month away (Oct. 9). I set my half marathon PR (personal record) of 1:32:51 in Cleveland a couple months ago while I was dealing with some knee pain and IT band tightness, but my body feels better now than it did in May and I’m in even better shape. My ultimate goal for Chicago is to qualify for the Boston Marathon with a time of 3:15 or better. A bit of a longshot, perhaps, particularly for my first marathon, but there’s nothing wrong with aiming high. And as I head into my final month of training, the race this weekend will give me a clearer idea of where I am in my training, with a time under 1:30 meaning that a 3:15 marathon may in fact be within reach.

If you’re training for a marathon, half marathon or any other longer race, don’t shy away from competition in the weeks and months leading up to the big day. Of course, races are much more taxing on your body than a standard training run, so don’t sign up for anything too close to your big race, but because you’ll likely run a race faster than any of your training runs, adding one or two shorter races to your schedule can serve as a useful warmup while giving you a mental break from the training grind to boot. So thanks again to Dodge for the opportunity to test my training in Virginia Beach this weekend and, after driving the 2011 Dodge Durango home Monday and picking the kids back up, I’ll check in next week to see if I broke that 1:30 mark.

Jamey, the editor-in-chief at, will be updating his Runner’s Journal a couple times a month as he trains for his next race. Currently, Jamey is training for the 2011 Chicago Marathon – his first full marathon – on October 9, and he plans on running the Tough Mudder next March. Email with comments, questions or your own thoughts on running.


Chrysler comeback is real!

It’s no secret that Chrysler has been struggling over the course of the last decade. The company has probably taken more than its fair share of the media beating, though, especially considering the positive moves it’s been making in the past couple years.

As a staff member has it at Dashboard News, Chrysler is poised for a comeback. Here’s an excerpt from his thoughts on Chrysler’s development:

Chrysler sales in 2010 are up almost 20 percent from 2009 and with eleven all-new or seriously refreshed Chrysler, Jeep, Dodge, Ram Truck and Fiat vehicles to be launched during the fourth quarter of 2010 and first quarter of 2011, the march is on for a larger slice of the market. Also in the mix is the venerable Fiat 500, which will add some flair to the Chrysler/Fiat stable and don’t be surprised if that little 500 becomes a cult hit. Many thought the days were numbered for Chrysler and it wasn’t easy to change perceptions but in the auto world, many are taking notice of what Chrysler and all of her brands are building and selling.

The Dodge brand has seen sales steadily climb and has new product that could seriously put them on a roll with the gorgeous 2011 Dodge Durango, the stylish and tough-looking 2011 Dodge Charger, the sharp crossover 2011 Dodge Journey, the new 2011 Dodge Avenger, the upgraded 2011 Dodge Grand Caravan, and the badass Dodge Challenger SRT8 392. We had a chance to drive some of these cars and were very impressed. The 2011 Dodge Charger is the flagship of the Dodge brand and appears to be ready to rock and roll in the sales department, with a re-design that looks awesome.

For more about the future of the Chrysler brand, including a sneak peek at the 2011 Chrysler 300, head over to Dashboard News.


Driving with Dodge in San Francisco

I was invited by Chrysler to join other bloggers in San Francisco for the opportunity to drive some of the new Dodge vehicles. As you can see from the photos above, we had a beautiful day in the city by the bay, and I had a great time with this impressive new lineup.

The Dodge Charger is the flagship vehicle for the Dodge brand, and the Charger has been completely redesigned from the ground up for the 2011 model year. The iconic feel of the vehicle remains, but you can see the new, sleeker design in the first photo above and in the other Charger photos. It offers a sport sedan that I think will have huge appeal for guys looking for performance, aggressive styling and value. The car was a joy to drive through the winding roads in the Bay area, as the new suspension lived up to the promise. For a car that starts at $25,995, buyers will get tremendous value.

The real treat of the day was the 2011 Dodge Challenger. I had the opportunity to drive one of the Inaugural Edition versions of the 2011 Challenger SRT8 392. This car is beautiful as you can see from the slideshow above, with the white paint and the blue racing stripes, and it’s the ultimate American muscle car. Frankly, I can’t remember a car I enjoyed driving more than this one. The car is a torque monster – the 392 Hemi is rated at 470 horsepower and 470 lb-ft of torque. I drove the automatic version, and this car is a beast! When you hit the gas at any speed, this car does exactly what you want it to do as it respond with a muscular roar. It handles beautifully as well, and any car enthusiast will fall in love with this 2011 Challenger.

While the Challenger and Charger stole the show, I was equally impressed with the other vehicles in the Dodge lineup. Dodge brought back the Durango, and this full-size SUV should be a real hit. The 2011 Durango has all the luxuries customers are becoming accustomed to in the crossover segment, but this SUV is the real deal as it still leads its class in towing capacity. Meanwhile, the handling is much better than previous versions of the vehicle, so you don’t feel like you’re driving a big truck.

In the crossover segment, the 2011 Journey should do very well in this exploding segment. Many in our group were impressed with how this car drove, and Dodge added some nice features including optional third-row seating that folds up or down depending on your needs. It’s a nice feature for families with young children.

In all the vehicles, Dodge has placed a new emphasis on the interiors and it shows. The goal for the brand is to over-deliver and provide real value for the cost of a vehicle, and you’re finally seeing Dodge live up to that promise. I loved the interior in each of the vehicles, and I think customers will feel the same way once they test drive these cars.

After San Francisco we joined the Chrysler team as they unveiled their new vehicles at the LA Auto Show where we had the opportunity to join in on a round-table discussion with Dodge CEO Ralph Gilles. Ralph is a true car enthusiast and you can see the passion he has for the new lineup.

Check back as we’ll be publishing full reviews of each of these cars, but I would recommend that you take the time to drive them. Each of the Dodge cars combines muscular styling with an impressive driver experience, and I suspect many drivers will be pleasantly surprised as they rediscover this brand.