108 Amazing Miles

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July was a great month for me!  I managed to run 23 days, with 8 rest days.  I ran distances ranging from 3.1 miles, up to 11 miles.  I ran one race this month, back on Independence Day.  That race, a 5k, was my fastest paced race in the last year.  I finished with a 7:03 pace.  I am still chasing the sub 7 paces I ran a few years ago.  My average pace during training July was 8:13.  I am very happy with all of my stats for the month.

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I love the photo above!  It has determination written all over it.  Running takes determination, will and heart.  I am feeling good, and have had a really good year so far.  Being determined, and chasing after my goals has a lot to do with my positive outlook.  Running really does make a body feel good and feeds my soul.

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I don’t run with music.  I focus on my surroundings, and take in the views and experiences that running and racing can provide.  I would rather remember the views, not the song, the cadence, that helped get me over that hill, or to the finish line.  Just look at this photo.  As runners, we have so many amazing opportunities to take in the beauty that is our world.  I breathe it in, the air and the scenery.

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Our community, a strong family of runners, look after each other.  We were strong before, but as Boston taught us recently, we all care for our sport and our fellow runners.  We take pride in what we do, the goals we set for ourselves, and we relish in the run, the race, the finish.  We celebrate ourselves, and just as importantly, we celebrate others.  We are strong!

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As July now is over, I begin a new chapter, a new month.  I look forward to continuing my training, and my racing over the next several weeks and months.  I look forward to stepping into the mass of runners at the starting line, and seeing what I can accomplish.  Bring on August!

Spirit of the Marathon

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What can I say?  I’ve watched this documentary 3 times now, including last night.  When you feel the need to get motivated again about our sport, watch the movie! When training is going great and you want some extra excitement about your upcoming race, watch the movie!

What this movie does for me is expand my love for the sport of running.  It offers a glimpse into the training of multiple skill level runners that are registered for the Chicago Marathon several years back.  Each has a story, each runs for a different reason or purpose.  This is true of any runner.  It gives me motivation and a look into the true heart of runners.  Why we do what we do.  It’s a truly inspirational piece.

Last night was the first time that I have watched the movie since meeting two of the men that were in it.  Bill Rodgers and Frank Shorter were both in the documentary, and true heroes in our sport.  I had the pleasure of meeting both men this past April at the Blue Ridge Marathon.  They continue to inspire thousands of runners!

As I get closer and closer to running my 6th marathon this September, I am reminded and truly in awe of the inspirational stories of runners all around the globe.  We all run for a reason.  We all have purpose and dedication toward the same thing.

Why do I run marathons?  Like the movie states, running a marathon will change your life.  For me, running gives me faith, hope and renews my own spirit every day!

Have you run a marathon?  How has it changed you?

Training Review

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That’s me… coming into the finish of my first Half Marathon of 2013.  The Tobacco Road Half, in Cary, NC.  The date was 3/17, St. Patrick’s Day.  Like the shirt?  It was exactly two weeks after I ran the Asheville Marathon on 3/3/13.  It was a great half for me.  I finished in 1:41:10.  This race was the first of 9 planned Halves for the year.  I am now gearing up for my 5th Half of the year, Tromptown Races, in upstate NY.  This past week of training was a success, moving me closer to conquering the 13.1 distance again.  Here is how this past week went:

7/22-  rest day after 8 miler on Sunday.

7/23-  4 mile hill run to start off the week.

7/24-  3.25 mile pace run in heat of the day.  Training in the evening.  Race next week is at 5:45 pm.

7/25-  7.25 mile hill run

7/26-  5k speed work run, with one tough hill

7/27-  4 miler, again in the heat of the evening.

7/28-  5.5 mile run, partly with me son at a slower pace, then kicked in into gear to finish out the week.

Total miles for the week 27.1.  I am happy with that.  For Summer training in the heat, more effort on my breathing is really coming into focus.  As well as hydration.  I have been feeling really good though.  This week?  I want to squeeze in an 11 miler, hopefully on Wednesday.  Good speed work, and some hill running are planned.  That should set me up for a few short runs the following week, leading up to the Thursday night race on August 8th.

Have a great training week!

E.T. Full Moon Midnight Marathon Recap

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If you are ever interested in running a one-of-a-kind event, this one is for you!

It features many things that are quite different from any other race you may have done in the past.  Visit http://www.calicoracing.com to find out more on these events.  You are guaranteed to have a blast, and truly an experience of a lifetime.

Why run E.T.?

1.  It’s held at midnight.  Night racing is amazing!

2.  You will be running only in the light of the full moon.

3.  You are running on the edge of the infamous Area 51 on Highway 375, otherwise named the Extraterrestrial Highway.

4.  A chance to see UFO’s

5.  ALIENS!!!!!

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I used reflective tape, and spelled out E.T. On the back of my race shirt.  I used a headlamp, but wore it on my wrist (no headache).  I did not dress up as an alien, although many folks did!

We met at Hard Rock Hotel & Casino for the swag pick up, and to load the buses to make the 2.5 hour trip north of Las Vegas to Area 51.  Fairly uneventful trip for my bus, although one bus did have an unknown object fly into, and smash out the entire windshield.  No one was badly injured, but we begged to ask the question, “was it an Alien that flew into the windshield.”  No one knows.  This event offers several race distances.  I ran the Half.  It also offers a full 51k, in honor of Area 51, as well as a marathon, 10k, and also a 5k.  It truly has something for everyone.

The course is all on paved highway with a few cattle crossings.  Watch out!  We raced in decent temperatures, even though it is full on August heat in the desert during the day, running at midnight the temps were very tolerable.  My race in 2012, the headwinds were incredible.  The first 6-7 miles were all uphill, for an elevation change of over 3,000 feet.  Very much a challenge. Add to that the massive headwinds, and that meant for a slow and steady climb.  The second half was mostly downhill to flat, so my second half of the race was much quicker.  I had a blast, it was magical and quite ethereal!  I felt like I was running in the middle of nowhere.  In the dark, watching shooting stars, and the clouds move across the sky in the moonlight.  Best described as ethereal in every way.  I loved it.

I made my way to the finish at the Little A’le’Inn, in Rachel, Nevada.  Image

I received an awesome medal for my efforts.  I finished 18th out of 322 runners.  Third in my age group.  What an adventure!  So worth doing this race.  Grab some friends, or run it alone, you will not be disappointed.  Check out the swag!ImageImage

After it’s all over, hop back on a bus after eating a complimentary breakfast at the Little A’le’Inn.  Relax and nap on the way back to Vegas!  Then party or crash…more than likely you’ll have been awake the entire night.  I won’t be back to race this event this year, but hope to in the future.

Run in the dark, you will love it!  Run this event, and let me know what you thought of it.

Marathon # 6

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My 6th marathon, and third marathon of this year is quickly approaching.  September 28th seems so far off considering it is officially a Fall season race, because the heat of the Summer still feels like it will be relentless.  Alas, the marathon is only 67 days away.  Just about 9 weeks left to prepare.  Yikes, I better get moving, huh?

I took a few weeks to sort of rest my legs a bit, and get ready for the constant pounding of almost daily runs, in preparation for the race.  That was a couple of weeks ago.  My mileage was 28, with a long run of 8 miles this past week.  The week before that was 26 miles.  As I plan out the next several weeks of training, it is important that I listen to my body.  I always like to do long run every other week, and increase the mileage of that run by two miles at a pop.  This week I will be running and 11 miler, and then really kick off longer distance training with a Half Marathon I have planned for the second week of August.

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This race in NY will be fun.  I get to hang out with family and friends, and just really try to enjoy this destination race.  The race is an evening race, something that I am not used to.  I do train in the evenings a lot, so I think I should be fine.  Weather?  That is the unknown.  Not sure if it will be really hot and humid or not, but if I know anything, training here at home in NC should prepare me for any kind of heat that NY may dish out that day.

Upon my return to NC, I will have seven more weeks to be ready for Asheville.  I will have a run of 15 miles the week I get back, and then over the next 6 weeks, a 17, 19 and 21 miler leading up to the race.  My feet usually start giving me fits if I run 35+ miles a week, so I will really pay attention to my body.  As I normally like to do, I have scheduled a Half Marathon a week before the Full.  Why do I do this?  I like to get one good last stretch before the race, and race far, but not too far.  I generally do not go all out unless I am really feeling good.  I look at the Half more as mental preparation, giving myself pep talks, and working out my pace and breathing.  I use it to give myself that final boost of confidence to go the distance on marathon day.

I have my plan, now I just need to stick to it.  Ok, for now that’s it, I have a tempo run to do.

Where and when are you running your “A” race this Fall?

Asheville Marathon at Biltmore Estate – race recap

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This past March 3rd, I ran the inaugural Asheville Marathon on Biltmore Estate, and had the time of my life!  You have to give this beautiful marathon a shot on its’ new date two weeks later in 2014.  It’s run entirely on the beautiful grounds of the Biltmore Estate.

First of all, if you decide to run this event, please spend a few days in the host city of Asheville, NC.  You will not be disappointed.  Asheville is a hip and happening place, nestled in the beautiful mountains of North Carolina.  The food scene is insane, delicious food is everywhere, just tempting your palate at every turn.  It is truly a foodie delight!  Be sure to check out the Burritos Favoritos at Salsa Mexican Caribbean Restaurant.  Funky, small restaurant right in the heart of downtown.  Check them out online at http://www.salsas-Asheville.com.   Ok, enough about the food, on to the race!

Buy commemorative Biltmore Estate wine here!

Buy commemorative Biltmore Estate wine here!

The expo was very easy to get to from the Residence Inn by Marriott, the hotel I was staying at.  Just minutes from downtown.  The expo had a good number of vendors, for a first year event.  There was a raffle, and tons of happy volunteers all over the host hotel.  They were all very excited to be a part of this event.  Information was easy to find, and I made my way quickly through, stopping to buy a bottle of wine pictured below, and to pick up my Mizuno race shirt, Balega race socks, and throw away gloves.  The swag was pretty nice.

Limited Edition Biltmore Marathon wine

Limited Edition Biltmore Marathon wine

Nice swag!

Nice swag!

We headed back to the hotel for a restful evening.  It was that evening that I really started to fear the weather, and potential race day effects.  The entire two days we had been in Asheville were bitter cold.  Unseasonably bitter.  The light to heavy winds made it even colder.  I had tracked the weather for a week, and was prepared with clothes, layers that could be tossed along the course.  I even went out and bought a Buff, for my neck/head, whatever I might need it for.  What will be, will be, and I will deal with it.

Race morning came very early.  I think I was up at 3:30am, which of course meant very little peaceful, hard sleep.  Coffee, coffee, more coffee.  I stepped outside to check the weather, and low and behold, it was about 10 degrees with the wind chill, and there were flurries all over.  Certainly not the weather I was hoping for.  I soon gathered all my gear, and was dropped off at the host hotel, to grab a shuttle into the Biltmore Estate.  I was on the first bus, and this was a very easy option for anyone staying at one of the race sponsored hotels.  Those of us on the first bus made it easily to the race start.  We had a ways to walk almost total darkness had us slipping on black ice.  Not what a racer wants to worry about on marathon morning.  They had set up a few warming tents, which I have to say we’re almost completely useless.  They hadn’t even gotten the heaters going by the time we arrived.  Here is a photo of the swirling snow around one of the tents.

This is what frigid looks like.

This is what frigid looks like.

The race was delayed for about 15 minutes, as the last of the shuttle buses hadn’t arrived yet.  So we all did our best to stay warm, and get a few stretches and jogs in.  Finally, the gun went off, and we began.  The first 6 miles were cold, but it was nice to get some body heat going through exercise. This part of the course was on well traveled roads on the Estate.  The surroundings were beautiful, lush with trees, pines and shrubs.  The road was undulating, but I began to catch my groove and felt like I was warming up.  I knew that about any moment, we were about to be hit head on by a view of the House.  And here is what I saw, stopping for a second to snap this priceless picture on my cell phone.

Totally amazing!!!

Totally amazing!!!

Me in front of the House, still in all my layers.

Me in front of the House, still in all my layers.

After the house, we ran down toward the gardens, and eventually out by the horse runs.  The horses were very happy to see us, and began running along with us.  This was a huge treat, and a great distraction from the bitter cold.  What actually happened at this point was that we had started to run more out in the open.  We had been fairly protected from the winds during the first 1/3 of the race, but now I was even colder.  I had pulled the buff away from my nose and mouth, and had even taken my gloves off, but had to retreat back to wearing them.  At this point in the race, runners move from a paved surface, to mostly gravel and dirt surfaces as you cross the bridge over the French Broad River onto the west side of the estate.

This side of the Estate is generally off-limits to guests of the Biltmore property, so this year when I ran it, was a first time for the public seeing these trails.  The terrain here on this 1/3 of the course was tough.  Tough on my ankles.  The gravel surface was so rough at times, that I was afraid of turning my ankles.  Not good!  This coming year they promise that the gravel paths will be groomed, and much easier on runner feet.  This section of the marathon is run through very scenic terrain, through vineyards and very old farmhouses.  It was truly a unique setting, and I felt so privileged to be running there.  Pine top area and  Dam hill area, a tough section of the marathon with a short but extremely difficult hill that has to be traversed twice.  note: nothing will prepare your legs for Dam Hill!!  I remember one section here, looking across a pond for a beautiful, picture perfect view of the Biltmore House far in the distance. Mileage at this point is about 16-18, and after that Dam Hill twice, you will be ready for the relatively flat last 1/3 of the race, as you cross back over the Bridge onto the East side of the property.

8,000 acre- America's largest back yard.

8,000 acre- America’s largest back yard.

I’ve gotten caught up in the story of the course, but have to remind myself, that although this was a beautiful marathon, the course conditions were very tough.  The terrain, far from perfect, and the weather was relentless, and brutal.  I was never able to shed the first bit of clothing.  I was not used to running in pants, or a pull over for that long.  I was planning on being warm enough to toss these items aside a few miles in, but that never happened.  Lesson learned.  Be prepared for anything.  The last few miles of the race are flat, and run along side the French Broad River, out to the Equestrian Center again for a loop around the horses, ( this time they were quiet, not running, tired of visitors).  I was so done with the race at this point.  I was walking through the last few aid stations, trying to stay hydrated.  Being so cold, and wearing so many layers, it masked a lot of the sweating I was doing, and I wanted to make sure that I maintained enough liquids.  Oh yeah, another important thing to mention about this day, if it sheds more light on the conditions, every time I grabbed a drink cup, I had to poke my gloved finger through the ice disk that had formed on the surface, which added to the misery of my cold fingers.  It was almost laughable.

The finish was nearing, and going sub 4, I now knew, was out of reach.  I had about a mile to go as my Garmin showed 4:00:00.  I managed to find one last boost of energy to get me close to the finish at Antler Hill Village.

Coming in to the finish

Coming in to the finish

It was official!  The finish of my 4th marathon.  I finished in 4:08:47.  Good for 232nd place out of 962 runners.  I was 24th in my age group.  Not much to be disappointed in, considering the conditions.  I truly enjoyed the race, and although there were plenty of down moments, the scenery, and just the fact that I was running at Biltmore, pulled me through and kept my spirits pretty high.  This was a very challenging marathon, but I highly recommend it.  The cost was higher than I usually like to pay for a marathon.  I think I signed up fairly early on, and still paid $125.

After the finish, wrapped in a finish line blanket gift, with the marathon logo, and the words "relax & celebrate".

After the finish, wrapped in a finish line blanket gift, with the marathon logo, and the words “relax & celebrate”.

I wasn’t able to stick around long at all after finishing.  I just simply was starting to freeze.  Now that I wasn’t running, the intensity of the cold (8 degrees with wind chill) was just too much to take.  I needed to change out of my soaking wet clothes, and into a warm car.  I heard that most runners had to pretty much leave right after.  I missed the awards, and everything else.  The winner came in at 2:46:47, just amazing!  Then he was promptly loaded into an EMS vehicle and taken to the hospital for hypothermia.  I heard this happened to many, many runners.  I guess being dressed in layers did help me.  Believe it or not I saw a couple of guys show up that morning in singlets.  OMG!  Not me.

This race was absolutely one of a kind.  Such fun.  A frozen mix of running, scenery, and fortitude.  26.2 miles of heaven really.  I will never forget it.

 

My love? My downfall?

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Bet you didn’t think this post would be about soda!  I am a total sucker for the stuff.  My drink of choice is pictured above.  An ice cold, Diet Lime Coke.  Now, I am not a snob or anything, I can drink a Diet Pepsi with Lime, too.  Regular Diet Coke, yep, that’s cool.

As a runner, and being part of the running community in general, I hear all sorts of bad things about soda.  I hear about people kicking the soda habit, and how much better off he or she is after.  Makes one feel more alive, and cleansed.  I am not sure I really buy the hype of giving up my Diet Coke.  I don’t drink alcohol, so why can’t I have my fizzy soda pop?

Before, during and after runs, I do like to charge and recharge with electrolyte drinks like Gatorade or Powerade.  I often have Zym drink tablets, and Nuun on hand to drop into a bottle of water per-run.  I like them both, and the variety of flavors offered really makes it interesting.  I just don’t think I am ready to give up my soda.  Plus, I never drink the full sugar versions of any soda, I much prefer the taste of a diet drink.

The reason I am writing this blog entry is to sort of spark a debate, both external and internal.  Do you drink sodas?  How do you feel about them?  Do you think they affect fitness performance?  Share your thoughts, I would love to hear them.