13 in 2013 complete!



Way back at the beginning of the year, I wasn’t sure I would be able to put together a racing season like I just completed.  I was coming off a few injuries, including a broken foot from a car accident back in March of 2012, and pretty severe PF.  Last year at this time I took a full month off from running after the Skinny Turkey Half Marathon last Thanksgiving Day.  I was tired, broken down, and desperately wanted to heal, and feel good again.  This was the best thing I could have done for myself.  After I began to slowly train again after Christmas, I felt renewed.  I wasn’t sure what the new year would bring, but I was cautiously optimistic.

Last January, after completing many successful short runs, I decided it was time to set some goals.  My body was starting to respond well to training, so I thought, what the hell, lets’s set some lofty goals.  What came to mind was this.  My favorite number is 13.  I was born on the 13th, and so was one of my sons.  It just turned 2013.  Why not try to complete 13 Half and Full Marathons combined throughout the course of 2013?  I felt good about this goal, I felt it was doable, lofty, yet not over the top.  So there it all began, and my planning was about to begin.

My goal would kick off with the Asheville Marathon at Biltmore Estate, a race I had signed up for back in the Fall of 2012.  I also had an entry for the Blue Ridge Marathon already booked at that time, so I just needed to fill in the blanks to get me to the magical number thirteen.

Planning for race seasons is so much fun.  I wanted to try some new races this year, but also run some tried and true races from previous years to see if I could better my times.  The following list is my races that got me to my goal this year, and even beyond!

March 3- Asheville Marathon 4:08:47

March 17- Tobacco Road Half Marathon 1:41:10

April 14- RunRaleigh Half Marathon 1:40:21

April 20- Blue Ridge Marathon 4:04:59

May 19- NCRC Invitational Half Marathon 1:45:50

June 1- Lookout Capital Half Marathon 1:46:22

August 8- The 35th Tromptown Run Half Marathon 1:44:43

September 21- Johnson Lexus Half Marathon 1:43:43

September 27- Asheville Citizen Times City Marathon 3:45:12

October 6- RunRaleigh Fall Half Marathon 1:42:09

October 20- Bull City Race Fest Half 1:44:05

October 27- Hallowed Half Marathon 1:39:00

November 3- Raleigh City of Oaks Marathon 3:32:24

My goal was completed here at my hometown marathon!  13 in 2013!  And a new marathon PR to cap it off.  I did it!  But just for good measure, I decided to add another race to the mix, in case.  So, 14 days later, I completed another marathon, and joining an exclusive club along the way.

November 17- Rock n Roll Las Vegas Marathon 3:41:41

Just an amazing year.  I completed 9 Halves, and 5 Full marathons on my way to smashing my 2013 goal.  All I can say, is how in the world can I top that in 2014?  Time will tell.  Back to the drawing board, the planning stages.  Here’s hoping that 2014 will be injury free and fun as hell.

What are you planning for your 2014 running calendar?

2014 Race Season planning

I just cant help myself….

Thoughts of my next racing season have already started to occupy my brain.  Like a junkie, I’m ready for my next fix.  So I wanted to share a few ideas for Winter/Spring racing options.  Some I am already committed to, and others are on the “to-do” list.

If you have run any of these races, and have comments on them, please share.






Heading out on my first run today, on Thanksgiving, since my Marathon a week ago Sunday.  Already looking forward to it, and next year as well!

Happy Thanksgiving to all!

Rock ‘n’ Roll Las Vegas Marathon -Race Recap Part 2


Talk about a destination race!  Las Vegas is it!  My race began… As the gun went off, I was thinking about many things.  First and foremost was, OMG, I just ran a marathon two weeks ago to the day.  Can I do this again?  This soon?  Have I fueled enough?  Will my feet hold up?  I felt good as the race began.

The race course starts in a southerly direction.  On Las Vegas Boulevard, we ran south for about a mile, and turned to the other side to start running back toward Mandalay Bay Hotel.  The crowd was huge, and because the Half and Full started at the same time, the first several miles proved to be very challenging.  The dodging and weaving around countless runners was tough, but I knew this going in.  This was the biggest group of marathon runners that I had run with since this race two years ago.


There I am! Can you see me?

My concentration those first several miles revolved around taking in the views.  The lights, the casinos, and the amazing crowd!  The people of Las Vegas, I’m sure most were vacationers, was absolutely incredible!  Thousands upon thousands lined the race course on the boulevard, hoping to catch of view of that special person they were supporting, or just cheering in general.  This race is truly unique in so many ways.  Mostly, it’s the fact that the Strip is closed to traffic, and to see runners only, is just amazing!  Image

My mood was uplifted by my surroundings and the crowd.  It was just amazing.  It kept me occupied, and happy all during the epic run toward downtown Las Vegas.  First passing Mandalay Bay again at mile two, then comes The Luxor, and Excalibur, The Tropicana, MGM, New York New York, Monte Carlo, and then City Center.  Heading north on the Boulevard, we then passed many more iconic hotels like The Bellagio, and Paris, The Cosmopolitan, Planet Hollywood, and on further, past Caesars Palace, the Venetian and Palazzo.  We ran by where the race would eventually finish at The Mirage Hotel and Casino.  As a Rock ‘n’ Roll event, there was plenty of local entertainment along the way.

About 5-6 miles in I started to grow tired of the runner traffic.  It was just so hectic running with that many people.  Having to worry about foot strikes, not tripping over other runners, was really starting to annoy me.  As we heading downtown, we ran past the hotel I was staying at, The Wynn.  We past Encore, and then the course got a lot darker heading into downtown.  I started to yearn for mile 9 to come, knowing that the 20,000 plus Half Marathon runners would be breaking away from the marathon course.  I was ready for a quieter, less busy run.  Running into downtown there were plenty of sections that were very dark.  This made this section very challenging.

Fremont Street!  Mile 9, we made it!  The Half split off, and the full marathoners then got to enjoy a special treat.  Running right down Fremont Street!  Right down the center of it.


This is how I felt!  My only wish is that my picture looked like this.  It was intense, and truly amazing to run through this section.  I. Enjoyed every moment.  The crowd support here was just fantastic,  who wouldn’t want to step out of the numerous casinos to watch a few thousand runners on an epic 26.2 mile journey?  I would have!

A quick trip down Fremont St., and we were now headed out into what I like to call the “getting the miles in somehow” portion of the marathon course.  Miles 10 and 11 had us running out toward and past the Las Vegas Freeway for a straight shot run up N. Martin L. King Blvd.  The temperatures were perfect.  I was just warm enough, but not too warm.  I was sweating, but nothing too serious.  I did make sure to hydrate all along the way, in fact, the aid stations were a nice break in the monotony of this part of the course.  We actually ran by one “band” that looked like a family band.  A really young kid was rocking it on his guitar, and it looked like his young sister was the lead vocalist.  It was about that time that a guy right behind me must have clipped the curb with his left leg, and took a massive spill.  He moaned, groaned, and hit hard.  I was scared for him, but aid immediately rushed to him.  I was so impressed!  Especially on this portion of the course, where there just wasn’t as much support.  They were right there to take care of him.  I have wondered several times since if he was able to regroup and finish.

For quite a while as we headed further and further away from the Strip, the view of The Stratosphere got smaller and smaller, and eventually disappeared.  I remember thinking, ok, ok, just keep running, and it will come back into view just as you need a bit of inspiration.


The Stratosphere is 1,149 ft.  It is the tallest freestanding observation tower in the US. and the second tallest in the Western Hemisphere.  It was visible for a while, but eventually we just were too far away to see it.  I was looking forward to seeing it again on my return to the Strip for the finish.

The more marathons I run, the better and better I get at anticipating “the wall”.  For me, it really isn’t about my body revolting, it’s all about the mental aspect.  Being positive, moving forward, pressing on.  Miles 13 through 20 were pretty dark, but the course was mostly flat, and easy to traverse.  I continued to hydrate, and felt really good.  My pace wasn’t stellar, but I maintained positive energy.  My thoughts revolved around that tower, it really gave me something to strive for visually.  To see that tower again.  It gave me energy, and kept me focused.  My pace slowly crept toward 8:20 per mile.  Coming off from my overall pace two weeks prior at The City of Oaks Marathon, of 8:06 at the finish, I knew I wasn’t going to come close, but I was good with that.  I was hanging in there.

The tower came back into view at about mile 21.  Yeah!  Wow!  We get to run back through Fremont St. again.  How exciting!  A double dose of the downtown neon!  Then we turned back toward as Vegas Boulevard.  Just a few miles of the race remained.  We joined back in the half Marathoners, but had one side of the course just for us.  It was marked well, and seemed like most Half runners respected the invisible line of delineation. At this point the Half runners were back of the packers, walkers, mostly, and tons of them.  It felt good to be passing so many runners, albeit Half runners.

I did pass some marathoners, as I found a new energy, a renewed focus because of being back on the strip.  Passing the hotels again, with tons of screaming onlookers.  It was electric!  Slowly but surely I pressed on, 23, 24, 25.  The finish line at The Mirage came into view.  As I glided to the finish, I was amazed by the crowds.  The lights and sounds of Vegas made the finish spectacular.  I crossed the finish, not too tired, and stopped my Garmin.  An amazing medal was placed around my neck, as the volunteer knocked my phone out of my hand, crashing to the ground.  Luckily it didn’t break.


It glows in the dark, too!  The shirt is pretty slick, too, don’t you think?



My oh my, my 5th marathon of 2013, now finished.  My second in two weeks.  It felt amazing!  I made my way through the finisher village, which was long.  Picking up recovery food and drink along the way.  Water, chocolate milk, apples (no more green bananas).  I grabbed a bagel and PowerBar.  Foil blanket wrapped around me, I eventually found an exit out of the finisher village, and started to make my way back to my hotel.  All in all, it was just an amazing race, and one I truly recommend to anyone looking for a great destination race.  If you love Vegas, or have never been and need a reason to go, you must run this race.  You would not regret it!

My official results:

Chip time 3:41:41 (my third fastest marathon)

62/314 in Age Group

266/1860 Males

315/2927 Overall

Top 10% finish in another marathon! sure! I’ll take it.


Top race adds a Half Marathon!



It was announced this past week on Thursday, that the Asheville Marathon at Biltmore Estate was adding a Half Marathon to the repertoire.  Great news for a lot of folks that have yet to complete a marathon, or just have no desire to run that far.  13.1 miles on the paved and dirt surfaces at the Biltmore Estate will be just as enjoyable, and probably be a great choice for folks that already have a Spring Marathon planned.

Registration for the Half just opened a few days ago, and will fill up quickly.  Don’t miss your opportunity to run 13.1, or 26.2 in America’s Largest Backyard.  There are 700 total spots available for the Full and 600 for the Half.

Check out http://www.ashevillemarathon.com for full details, and a link to register.


Rock ‘n’ Roll Las Vegas Marathon -Race Recap Part 1


A few days have passed since my epic race day in Las Vegas.  What a great trip, a great race, and a fantastic way to finish out my 2013 racing year.  I’m going to try to capture the memories here, so let’s begin.

I flew to Vegas on November 14th, early in the morning.  On about three and a half hours of sleep, I was tired.  That morning was incredibly cold for this time of year.  It was like 28 degrees, so our plane had to be de-iced prior to leaving.  I think because of the delay, and my short layover time in Atlanta, the stress of making my connection kept me from catching a few winks on that flight.  With a little luck, we made it just in time to board.  Las Vegas bound, tucked into my aisle seat for the four and a half hour flight.

Upon arrival in Las Vegas, the local time was before 10:00am.  Adjusting to the time change is always a challenge, especially when in a city that does not live by the clock that I am used to.  Off to jump into the rental car, and make our way to the Wynn Hotel and Casino.


The Wynn is a beautiful hotel, and highly rated.  I’ve stayed there once before, and chose this hotel as it was one of the race partner hotels, and offered a few extra nice amenities for runners.  We got a beautiful, and comfortable room, with an amazing view.  Some shots of the view….


After an amazing lunch at the Wynn Buffet, we settled into some gaming.  I find Vegas very relaxing.  I do not party, or drink, too old for that.  So due to the time change, and travel exhaustion, I was ready for bed about 8pm, which was really 11pm on my internal clock.  I tried to stay up later, but just couldn’t.  Staying up would have helped with adjusting to the time change better, but it just didn’t happen.  Woke up at 6am on Thursday, full of vigor, and ready for a day of fun, and of course, the race expo.

The Expo was held at the Las Vegas Convention Center, an easy walk from the Wynn.  This saved us from having to pay a $10 parking fee.  The Expo was huge, as expected.  Because we attended on the first day, and early in the day, the crowds were certainly manageable.


The expo had a ton of vendors.  It really was fun to get race weekend going.  Lots of interesting products, giveaways, etc.  I won the Brooks shirt pictured above, and sampled some newer fuel and hydration products, along with just enjoying “runner watching”, as this race had entrants from all 50 States, and 52 countries.  Just amazing.  A truly international event.

After another amazingly relaxing day on Saturday, with visits to downtown casinos like the Golden Nugget, Binion’s and my all time favorite downtown hotel and casino, The El Cortez.


The evening consisted of visits on The Strip to the Cosmopolitan, the Bellagio, among others.  One of my favorite things to do in Las Vegas is to catch at least a few fountain shows in front of the Bellagio Hotel.


Race day Sunday has arrived.  There is always a challenge to running an evening event.  I think it’s even more difficult when you don’t have the comforts of home.  When and where to fuel, what to fuel with.  I hydrated with water all day, and decided that just a light breakfast would be best.  About two hours before the race I fueled up with a banana Power Bar.  The Wynn, being one of the host hotels, had a free shuttle to the race start.  This was an absolute breeze.  It took a little longer than I expected to get to the start, but we made it there about an hour before the start of the race.  The staging area was immense, but with over 20,000 people, there were just not enough port-o-potties.  Luckily I only had to use the bathroom once and made it through a line in about ten minutes.  The pre-race concert featured the band The All American Rejects.


I was in Corral 5, so once it was time to start filing into the corrals, it was a smooth transition out of the holding area and make my way.  One last potty break behind a restaurant with about a hundred other runners.  Girls and guys alike.  Who wants to have to start a marathon needing to use the bathroom?  Not me!

In my corral, I loosened up, stretched, and ate a Clif Bar, and took my usual first GU, with 10 minutes to go.  I snapped the following photos as the countdown began.  Such a huge crowd!  Over 30,000 runners registered for all three events.  The Full, Half and Half of the Half participants lined up in over 30 corrals.  It looked like this.


It was an amazing sight.  It would take over a half hour to release all of these corrals onto the course.  The National Anthem was sung, while we were photographed, and helicopters hovered overhead.  It was go time!  About seven minutes after the gun, my corral was at the line and ready to run.  Stay tuned for my next post on the race itself.  The running of 26.2 miles in one of my favorite places…. Las Vegas.

Vegas Vacation


That’s it folks!  I am officially on vacation.  A running holiday.  My favorite place and my favorite activity, rolled into one.

I just got home from work, and don’t have to think of that place for another week.  Isn’t vacation time grand?  Not that I don’t enjoy my work, because I do, but we all need breaks.  Having a break right before the holidays get rolling is even better.

The rest of the day today will involve packing.  It’s always tougher to pack for a Vegas trip during the colder months than it is in the Summer.  It could be warm during the day, but once the Sun goes down, it’s a different story.  Plus for this trip, I have to pack for a 26.2 mile run.


This time tomorrow I will be there.  Getting on the plane tomorrow morning at 6am, flying through Atlanta, arriving in Vegas before most folks get up.  The first day is always a long day because of the three hour time change.  Then, relax!  Take in the sights and sounds that are exclusive to Las Vegas.  My plan is to hit the Expo early on Friday to avoid the crowds.  I do look forward to this race expo because it is absolutely huge, loaded up with vendors.  I must try not to spend too much money.

The race starts at 4:30 pm on Sunday evening.  I am gong to thoroughly enjoy it.  I am going to try not to worry too much about my pace, and just enjoy the experience.  Of course I will try to blog again before then, but you must excuse me now, as this guy is on vacation.


Two Marathons/Two Weeks


I’ve spent days in recovery mode.  I feel like I’ve barely run in the past week.  In fact, I only ran seven miles the entire last week.

It feels good to have some down time.  It feels good to relax, and let my post marathon legs and feet recooperate.  The rest is over though.

It is indeed time, time to get the game face back on.  Time to lace up the running shoes and pound the pavement.  I’ve got three days of running to do.  Three days before leaving for Vegas for another marathon.  Once I board that plane, the final rest before the 26.2.  So, until that time, I have to get in a few low mileage runs.  Some speed work, some hills.  Now that the muscles are alive again after the City of Oaks last Sunday, I must prepare them and my mind for another journey to the finish line.  That long 26.2 mile journey out in the desert in Nevada.  Sin City.  This Sunday.

I am excited, and somewhat overwhelmed by the adventure at hand.  Two marathons in 14 days.  I am up for the challenge.  Recovery is over, and the preparations begin.

Look out Las Vegas, here I come!

Show me your medals! #Bling


Marathon medals in order. Myrtle Beach, Tobacco Road, Outer Banks, Asheville/Biltmore, Blue Ridge, Asheville City, City of Oaks

Race medals are a great reward for completing a race.  Who doesn’t love some bling?  To have a medal placed around your neck after completing a tough race is very cool.  These days medals are getting fancier and fancier.  Bigger and bigger.  The photo above shows my 7 marathon medals.  It’s hard to pick a favorite.  What makes a medal special to you?

– the overall design?

– the size?

– the race itself?

– uniqueness?

– colors?

Let me know.  I my favorite is, ah, I can’t decide.  They are all special for different reasons.  The first, the last, the hardest course, it’s hard for me to peg just one reason.

Show me your most prized medal, and tell me why.

Viva Las Vegas


Just one week from today, I will be boarding a plane with my best friend, heading to the land of swimming pools and titty bars.  Gambling chips, stilettos, and money.  Neon lights, slot machines and Cirque.  Of course, it’s one of my favorite places on Earth!

Las Vegas will be the sight of my fifth marathon of the year.  Challenging because of many things… It’s 26.2 miles, first and foremost.  It’s a huge race, meaning thousands of runners,  The race is in the evening, and Vegas is the also the land of buffets.  Proper fueling, and hydration will be critical, in Vegas, no easy feat.  I really have to be mindful.

I ran this infamous race back in 2011, except then, I ran the Half.  It was my third Half, and have since run 16 more.  I was really a newbie to racing that distance back then.  I was also coming off from being sick for ten days leading up to that race.  This time, the Full, my 8th Full.  I feel good right now, so I have to take care of myself over the next week.  I want to stay healthy and give myself the best shot for a great marathon.


My 2011 race shirt front and back.


With all the good and bad publicity that Rock n Roll races get, I am curious to hear about your experiences with them.  Have you run any?  If so, which ones?  What did you think?  I’ve only run the race two years ago, and had a great time.  I will be signing up for the inaugural Rock n Roll here in Raleigh next April, but would consider others if you have other suggestions.  I bet the New Orleans race is amazing.  I will probably try the Savannah race sometime.  Let me know.  Would love to hear your thoughts.

This marathon is 10 days away.  It will be my 8th marathon, and 50th race overall.  Is there a better place to celebrate such achievement?  Now I just have to figure out if I will dress up as a Blue Man or Elvis for the race…..just kidding.  I am not a costume wearer.  I will be going for another PR, so I have to take this run seriously.  I can’t wait!

Viva Las Vegas!

Raleigh City of Oaks Marathon – Race Recap


What at can I say about my first attempt at this hometown race?  So much to say, so many thoughts, so much fun to remember.  I gave myself a couple of days to digest this experience before recapping so that it would all sink in.  Let me just say that first and foremost, it was just an incredible day!  Let me start from the beginning…..

Several months ago, when I started mapping out my year, I put this race on the “maybe” list.  As we all know, unless we shell out a lot of money at the first part of the year, a racing schedule typically ebbs and flows, and options are weighed throughout the course of the year.  As my plan was coming together for the Fall, I ended up signing up for the Asheville City Marathon.  It was a deal I couldn’t pass up on, because on National Running Day back in June, for one day only, the race was 50% off.  At that point, I just wasn’t sure if I could, or should, run another marathon in the Fall.  So, I listed this race on my finalized list, even though I hadn’t entered it yet.  I was offered an entry from a friend of mine, so this was an easy decision.  Done!  Signed up for my local marathon.  Cost?  $0.  Hard to beat that.  No overnight stay in a hotel, and a quick 20 mile drive to the start.

Jumping ahead a bit (we won’t talk about the minute details).  I will start with the Expo.

I planned on helping a friend of mine, if I didn’t have to work, at the Expo, which was located at the McKimmon Center on the campus of NC State.  As it turns out, I had Friday off from work so I volunteered to help.


I drove up to the Expo on Friday, and helped out at the Asheville Marathon at Biltmore Estate booth from 4-7pm.  It was so much fun talking to runners about this event that I ran earlier this year.  I had to pick up my packet for the race anyway, so it made perfect sense to lend a hand.  If you are looking for an absolutely beautiful marathon to do in early 2014, think about this race.  It is truly a one-of-a-kind, bucket list race.  The booth was so well put together, very inviting and professional.  Kudos to Daphne, the Race Director!   We had a great time talking shop, and all things running, Biltmore Estate, and Asheville with runners from all over that evening.  Here is a shot of Daphne and the booth.


I had to work on Saturday, so I spent most of the day on my feet.  Not really what I wanted to be doing, but because the City of Oaks is local, I could actually work, and not take vacation time during a marathon weekend.  Bonus to running local!  Work ended at 4pm, but instead of spending the rest of the evening on the couch with my feet up, I ended up being out until 10pm.  My eldest son had a soccer playoff game, which I had to attend and support.  Then a late carb loading dinner of pasta and garlic bread.  Once home, I did finally put my feet up for some much needed relaxation.  That is, of course, after getting my race morning gear ready, and the Garmin charging.  I got to bed around 11:30, and with Daylight Savings Time, got an extra hour of sleep, even though it didn’t feel like it when the alarm when off at 3:50am.

Race morning was here.  It was a dark, chilly morning, but very promising from a marathon standpoint.  The temperature was about 48 degrees when I got up, and was supposed to be around 50 degrees and sunny at the 7am start time.  I had my coffee, and stretched, and loosened up.  The morning went off without a hitch.  I was parking my car right at 6am, an hour before the start.  Some more stretching, and trying to stay warm, I finally made the half mile walk to the starting area at NC State.  I didn’t have to use the bag check, and it was just warm enough that I was only shivering for a short while before the start.


The race starts on Hillsborough St., right in front of the Bell Tower.  Unfortunately I dropped my bag of Sport Beans somewhere during the half mile hike to the start.  Probably because I was trying to keep my hands warm.  I didn’t realize this until 15 minutes prior to the gun when I went to grab them from my fuel belt.  Gone.  There went my pre-race jolt.  I sucked it up, and made my way into the starting area.  I managed to get into a fairly open space, behind the group going out for a 3:30:00 finish.  There were tons of people there.  One of the biggest race starts I have been in without a staggered start.  The City of Oaks race also has a Half Marathon and 10k option.  So people were wearing different colored bibs, but we were all starting together.  The Half had 2,245 runners, and the 10k had 1,038 runners.  A big crowd!  As we all sang our National Anthem, while respecting our flag at the Bell Tower, I readied myself for the 26.2 miles ahead.  I was at peace, and thankful to be there, on a beautiful morning, in my State’s capital.

Having not run this race before, I had to do a bit of homework about the course.  The first part of the course, run in and around the city of Raleigh was fairly familiar to me.  I work downtown, so many of the streets that the course is run on I am familiar with.  I usually don’t run on them, so this was going to be a treat.  The later parts of the race are run on a greenway that I was completely unfamiliar with, but had been warned about the difficulty of.


I wish there was a map that was a little clearer to see, but this is all I can find.

The gun went off after a 10 second countdown, and the race was on!  The sun was out, the sky was blue, and runners were everywhere.  I took off at a fairly decent clip, moving in and around tons of runners.  Heading toward downtown for a few different loops, one decent sized hill is tackled early on, then a good bit of flat for the next two miles.  I kept my breathing and strides in good harmony.  I felt good.  Coming off from my really good finish last weekend in the Half marathon, I knew I wanted to try to keep my pace around 7:30 in the beginning part of the race in the city.  This worked only for a few miles.  Closer and closer to the Capital Building, I started to hear snare drums.  As we made our way right up to the center of the city, there was a great drumline giving us a beat to run to.  They were awesome!

As I approached the 5 mile point I took my first GU, and continued on.  I made a turn, and encountered a really strong cold wind.  My nose began to run a bit, and I think I lost my pace focus here.  I was paying more attention to the sights of downtown, the wind, and my nose, and not focusing enough on maintaining my pace.  I crossed the 10k mark in 47:35, a 7:40 pace.  I wasn’t off by too much, but knew I couldn’t afford to let this slip a lot lot more on this portion of the course if I wanted to PR.  The downtown portion of the course was cool because there was plenty of crowd support for the early hour.  When we turned onto Glenwood Ave., there were even folks outside riding stationary bikes at a health club.  They moved the bikes outside to the sidewalk so that folks could get their workouts in while cheering us on.  How cool was that?  I loved it!  Turning onto Peace St., we headed down toward Cameron Village.  This area is very spectator friendly, and there were tons of people.  This is also where the 10k finish is, and the first of the marathon relay exchange points is.  It was crowded, and also uphill.  I lost a bit of focus here as well, but had to enjoy the crowd.

As we headed out toward mile 9, racers were finally starting to spread out a bit more.  I had to take a leak for about three miles, but the only portopotties I saw in the city was a set of two, and there was a line to get in them.  Ducking into the woods wasn’t an option, so I had to bide my time until the opportunity presented itself.  I guess it was at about mile 10 that I finally found a spot in a residential area that I could relieve myself.  I am not shy when it comes time to take care of business during a long race, but either spectators, course monitors or my respect for privacy got in the way.  I’m sure I lost about a minute when I finally stopped.  This didn’t matter, because it had to be done.  I was at the point of discomfort by then, and felt so much better afterward.

The Half and Full split comes just before mile 11.  At this point we turn onto the greenway portion of the course.  Once again, the crowd now thinned a lot.  Runners were fewer and further between.  I kept my focus at this point on a few runners up ahead of me, and just maintaining a good overall pace.  My Garmin had me at about a 7:50 pace at this point, and I was going into the tougher section of the course.  It was about a mile onto the greenway portion that I fist felt a twinge of a cramp forming in my right calf.  I started to freak out a bit because I haven’t had any cramps lately, so I knew my electrolytes must have been off a bit, or my water consumption wasn’t enough.  I took note of this, and promptly added an extra GU into the plan, and drank more water at each aid station.  I never got a full on cramp, but it was enough of a worry that I thought about it a lot over the next several miles.  The twinges would come and go, but I think I managed them well.  I hit the 13.1 timing mat at 1:43:27, for an overall pace of 7:53.  Not bad at all, but slower than what my goal was.

The greenway was great, but also the most challenging portion of this race for me.  The out and back section was about 13 miles.  Rolling hills, beautiful Fall colors on the trees, overpasses, tunnels, sharp turns galore.  It was tough.  Many runners were reduced to walking in some sections that were tough, but plenty of top finishers still were in tip top shape when they ran past me already heading back in the other direction.  It is at about mile 17.5 that you u-turn on the greenway and head back toward the city and the finish line.  I was extremely happy to be half way done with the greenway, but knowing that the glorious downhill section was going to be a fierce uphill section at about mile 20-23.  This I was not looking forward to.  The intermittent cramping kept rearing it’s ugly head, and proved to be especially irritating the closer and closer I got to the end.  I hit mile 20 at 2:37:57, overall pace at that point of 7:53.  Nice to know that even with my struggles, and fueling tweaks, I managed not to lose any pace for seven miles on the greenway.  That was just as I arrived at the toughest section though.

I really think that this part of the course is what really could have killed my energy and focus, but instead I stayed positive, and kept going. I refused to give up, I kept my focus on trying to PR.  I knew that if I could manage to run even if I wanted to walk, that I could be successful.  I did.  I was still under PR pace after the tough section, and finally began to see the end of the greenway.  I had done it.  I was about to hit mile 24, and back onto Hillsborough St., with only a few short miles to go.  Folks were really beat up at this point, but I kept running.  I kept going, I kept running.  My Garmin clicked above 8:00 pace, slowly but surely I was losing my battle for that PR.  I knew though that I could do it.  I found that energy, that inner spirit.  I managed to pick up pace over the last mile.  The crowd support was back.  Full force, people were lined up along the streets, cheering.  They would call out my bib number.  “keep going 462, you’re almost there”.  3:30:00 slipped by, but I knew I had done it.  Those last tenths of a mile were hard fought, and so worth it.  Seeing the finish line, and the clock coming into view was so special.  I hadn’t PR’d the marathon distance in over a year and a half. I was about to do it.  I was elated to cross the finish, cheered on by the crowd.  The clock read 3:32:39.  I beat Myrtle Beach!!!  A new PR.

I had a beautiful medal placed around my neck, grabbed a few bottles of water and made my way over to the grass beneath the Bell tower to sit.  To absorb the moment.  I felt good, no limping, no cramping.  As I watched other runners coming across the line I got emotional. I actually teared up, I was so happy, and felt so accomplished.  I had set a new personal record.  I really could not believe it.  This truly was lucky #7.  I have worked so hard, and felt so incredible to have the self imposed PR monkey off my back.

So now it’s onward and upward and most importantly, forward.  I have renewed energy that my training is paying off, and my enjoyment of the run is stronger now than it ever has been.  I know I have more in me, and that if I continue to set new goals for myself, that I can conquer them.  It will never be overnight successes, but earned successes.  That is what is most important to me.

As I continue to relish in my new PR, I will share with you a few stats……

I finished 76/770 overall.  (Top 10%) (in a marathon that is huge for me!)

I finished 7/89 in my Age Group.  (Thrilled with this, too)

Chip Time: 3:32:24 (a PR by a full minute)

Overall placement at the splits:

10k split: 85th.    Half split: 91st.    20 mile split: 83rd.    Finish: 76th

What these splits mean to me is that I hung tough, on a tough course!  I was consistent throughout, and finished strong!  I can only hope to do this in every race.

Thank you Raleigh City of Oaks Marathon for a wonderful experience.  The day was rounded out with a terrific finisher village.  Fantastic post race food choices, band, beer garden and lots of happy runners.  My post race hot chicken noodle soup, Krispy Kreme doughnuts, and pepperoni pizza was just what I needed and craved after a 26.2 mile epic journey.  It was truly a fantastic day, and one that I will remember forever.  For now, City of Oaks is the new time standard I have to beat.  I am racing 26.2 miles again 12 days.  Maybe too early to set another PR, but I surely will be gunning for it in Las Vegas.


I am already looking forward to returning next year!