Everything about this event screams FUN! Unless you aren’t an amusement park fan, this event has awesome written all over it.
My son and I got up bright and early on Saturday morning to make the three hour road trip to just outside of Charlotte, NC., to Carowinds Amusement Park. The plan was this… Get down there close to the opening of the park that day, and head straight to packet pick up. Once packets picked up, we would have the full day to enjoy the park, and take in as many roller coasters as possible. The car ride down was easy, and with gas prices at $2.00/gal., a cheap trip at that!
I haven’t been to Carowinds in easily 10 years, so when the opportunity presented itself to pace this event with Beast Pacing, I jumped on it. Pacing meant a comped entry, and free admission to the park for the entire weekend. My son just wanted coasters, not running. His soccer season at school is a few weeks into the season and he has a game tonight, so he didn’t want his legs to be wrecked from running. I don’t blame him. His decision not to run meant he got to sleep in on race morning, too! Score for him!
The weekends weather forecast was a little iffy leading up to Saturday, and in fact we had some rain on the way there. Once at the park though, the clouds threatened all day, but it never rained. We had an amazing time riding Afterburn, Carolina Cobra, Carolina Cyclone, Fury 325, Intimidator, and Nighthawk. I have to admit, even at my age, I am like a kid when it comes to coasters. Love them! We rode several of the rides multiple times! Fury 325 was just amazing! Over and over and over and over again! Couldn’t get enough of it.
We had an absolute blast!! If you’ve never been to Carowinds, you have to go. They have the best coasters in the Southeast!
We left the park, early in the evening, and checked into our hotel, which was a whopping 1/4 of a mile from the entrance to the park. I knew this meant race morning would be a breeze, which is why I chose it. After relaxing for a few we went out to dinner for fajitas, chips and salsa. It was delish! After dinner settled in our bellies, we made our way over to the park again for a few more rides before calling it a day. I had a race to run in the morning!
Race morning was such a breeze. Being so close meant that I didn’t have to get up mega early. I got some coffee in me and went outside to check the weather. It was about 60 degrees, which seemed quite cool. I was pumped about that! I had to meet up with the other pacers at 6:45, with the race starting at 7:30am. Since Beast Pacing is pacing all of the Run & Ride events this season, I had a really nice pacing shirt to wear. I met my fellow pacers right on schedule, and we were ready to race.
The sunrise was beautiful that morning. Absolutely the best weather for a race, and I was ready. I was pacing the 1:50:00 group, and met a bunch of runners who were aiming for my goal time. We chatted at length, swapping stories, and talking strategy. My goal was to aim for an 8:20 per mile pace in the beginning, knowing that would put us at a 1:49:00 finish time. I typically build in a few seconds in case the course is a bit short or long, so that there is time to adjust nearing the finish if necessary.
The race course on the map was very confusing, but we were told by the RD that the course was well marked by cones and directional markers, as well as volunteers at each critical juncture. It was a looping course in and around the amusement park, and because there was also a 10k going on at the same time, we would have to pay close attention to the route markers. We had no trouble finding our way.
The one thing that I had feared going into this race started coming to fruition very quickly. Because of all of the turns and twists and loops in the course, I had really worried about my Garmin matching up with the race route markers. It was painfully obvious that just after the first mile, we were off, and not by just a little. Have you ever run a race where your timing device didn’t match up to the mile markers on the course? I tried to dismiss it, hoping that over the course of the run my mileage would match back up with the course, but it never did.
By the end of the first mile on my Garmin we were sitting at an overall pace of 8:18, but mile marker 1 was .2 miles behind us. I figured, just keep even pace and go. The run felt so easy to me. Maybe it was the nice cool temperature and low humidity that I was enjoying. That in combination with the conversation with my group really made the miles tick by ever so effortlessly. I felt good. My group consisted of a girl running her first Half, a woman who had recently lost 100+ pounds, a gentleman from China here on business, a couple from the area that had run the race the year prior, and plenty of other folks that drifted forward and back as the race wore on. From time to time I would ask the others where the mileage was on their devices, and we were all over the place. By the mid point of the race, my mileage was a full 1/2 mile behind the course signs. I just couldn’t understand how we could all be so off from the route markers, but we were. I plodded along, keeping our pace though.
We ran around, looping back through the course for a second pass. This time the loop was a little different, with a different finish of course. The young girl running her first Half had left us in the dust at some point about four miles into the race, but curiously appeared about four miles later behind me. Hum, I wondered. She must have had to stop to use the bathroom or something, because I know we never caught up to her. But there she was, by my side again. I said ” where did you come from?” She told me she had made a wrong turn, following the 10k route a few miles back, and didn’t realize it. She had to backtrack to the Half route, and then catch back up to us. I felt bad, but knew it was a typical rookie mistake. It’s happened to me before, I know that!
Nearing the final 5k, the race was going perfectly for me. Even pace still, sitting at 8:22 per mile overall. We neared another sign. The sign was mile marker 11. My Garmin ticked 10 miles on the dot when we hit that sign. A FULL MILE OFF!!! OMG! What to do? Do I slow down, or keep my pace? I started thinking at this point that I was going to get to the finish way early. When I pace for Beast Pacing, I have to be within a minute of my projected finish time, but never over. I thought to myself, well, I can always walk the last mile if I have to, but there were never any clocks on the course to really get a feel for if my timing was off, or if the course was just short. I carried on knowing I could always walk, or even stop if necessary to hit my goal time.
The time came, the final mile. My overall time was like 1:30:00? What do I do with this? A mile to go, and 20 minutes to burn. I was flabbergasted. So I slowed way down, and I mean way down. So not my nature to slow down at the end of a race, mind you. It irked me to the core! But there I was, finally within view of the finish line clock, and it read 1:41:00. So, I implemented my Plan B. I turned around and began doing laps of the final two tenths of the course, cheering on runners as they caught up to me, and then running them to the finish. I would double back again, and run another group in to the finish area. Then again. I just was trying to burn time on the clock, helping as many people as I could. Eventually I could see 1:49:00 on the clock, so I decided it was my turn to finally finish.
The clock read 1:49:21 as I hit the mat. After hearing my name announced, I grabbed a water, and found pacers that were ahead of me on the course. I asked them about the mileage they had on their Garmins. They were all off, too. So, in the end, after checking with about six other people, we knew the course was short. Really short. I think the general consensus was about 3/4 of a mile short. It was really too bad. If I had been racing this course not pacing, I would have had a huge PR. But then again it really wouldn’t have been since the course was short.
Looking at the final results, I’m sure that most folks got “PR’s” since the course was short, but other than that it was a fabulous race. Well supported by volunteers, perfect weather and a great atmosphere. I would run it again for sure, but hope the course would be measured more accurately next time. 🙂
Great bling! Great weekend of coasters! After chatting up some of the folks in my group, I went back to the hotel to change clothes. My son was just waking up when I got there. Ah! the life of a teenager. We checked out of the hotel, and headed right back to the park for four consecutive rides on Fury 325 before heading home. It was a great weekend! Half Marathon #28 in the books!