Bull City Half Marathon- Race Recap

This past Sunday I ran Bull City Race Fest again!  Third time in the four years the race has been running.  The only time I didn’t run it was a few years ago when I ran the Greensboro Marathon the day before.  Yes, I hated to miss it that year but I just couldn’t get myself out of bed at 4am after a marathon the day before.  My legs and energy were shot.  This year was another story.

Everything about this race is just awesome.  Tons of runners, nearly 6,000 every year running the Half, Five miler and 1 miler combined.  I was asked to be on the pace team again this year, one of my absolute favorite things to do.  Since I’ve been struggling a bit with my feet I decided to pace the 9:00 mile group.

I paced with with a great runner, Drew, who I hadn’t met at previous pace experiences at this race.  He was an awesome pace partner.  In 2013 I paced the 1:45:00 finish group, in 2015 I paced the 8:30 per mile group with my son, and now 2016 the 9:00 mile group.

Race morning was near perfection weather wise.  52 degrees, and just beautiful.  This race has always been ultra lucky with fantastic weather.  We lined up with our pace sign about 20 minutes prior to the gun.  As you can imagine, this group was loaded with folks wanting to beat the 2:00:00 Half finish.  I love a huge group of runners, especially on a hilly course.  Runners ebb and flow, and you get a chance to meet and talk with so many new faces along the way!

Our race was filled with ups and downs, as you would expect on the hills of Durham.  Such a great course though, giving runners a chance to see many parts of the city.  We kept a great consistent pace.  Constantly checking our progress, Drew and I maintained a pace of about 8:57 through the first half of the course.  As with most races, our timing devices were a little off from each other, and also the mile markers on course, but doing the extrapolations each mile, we were confident our pace was on target especially knowing how difficult and hilly the final miles are.

We ended up bringing tons of folks across the line with new PR’s, and many more just so happy to finish that tough race.  Pacing is always tough work.  My goals are different depending on each races expectations of how close to the target each pacer should be, and much to my surprise I came across the line with a perfect 1:58:00, 9:00 minute mile pace.  So difficult to nailed it perfectly, in fact I’ve never done it.  Most races expect a finish within a minute under goal time, but not over.  This one may go down in the books as the only perfect finish I’ll ever have.

It was a great day!  Finish festival with food trucks is always a bonus, especially when you can spread out and bask in the sun and also the glow of an awesome finish!  Thanks Bull City, and big thanks to Drew for pacing with me!  I shall return!

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2015- My Racing Recap

I finally have a day off, with some time to actually sit down and compile a look back on another really awesome year in running.  It’s truly hard to believe that it just takes some dedication and good health to push out the kind of results that I have been able to achieve in just five years.

What truly began as a quest to help my son when he joined his High School Cross Country team, has become a passion of mine that would be hard to give up.  I don’t want to give it up, in fact, I am still striving for more.  Getting that BQ is really the only thing that I didn’t achieve in 2015, but that’s ok.  I had so much fun on the pavement, so let’s have a look back.

Hilton Head Marathon- 2/7/15. My first ever AG placement in a marathon!  2nd place!  Was thrilled with my performance in my first race of 2015.  Finish time 3:46:53

Asheville Half Marathon- 3/15/15. I paced the 1:50:00 finish group, on a beautiful day in the mountains of North Carolina.  The race is so challenging, yet running here evokes so much respect and history that even the hills are welcome.  Finish time 1:49:17

All American Marathon- 3/22/15. My second year in a row racing from Fayetteville to Ft. Bragg.  I had a really hard fall and got pretty banged up right before the race, so just finishing in one piece was a big accomplishment on the day.  Finish time 3:50:51

Rock ‘n’ Roll Raleigh Half Marathon- 4/12/15. The intense marathon course here in 2014 prompted me to only take on the Half this time around, and then they changed the course, and left me wanting to run the Full.  Feeling a bit of a let down, a good race almost turned sour with leg cramps toward the end.  I pushed through it with the help of cheering supporters.  Finish time 1:47:46

New River Marathon- 5/2/15. A fist time running way up in the northwest corner of my state, the course was absolutely breathtaking!  Very challenging in parts, but a quiet, small event with so much to offer.  This race was one of the highlights of my year.  Finish time 3:50:13

Run the Quay 10k- 6/6/16. So much fun running my hometown event, and then watching my younger son run the 5k right after me.  Sub 8 minute mile pace on this undulating downtown course with about 35 turns.  Finish time 48:48

Aspen Valley Half Marathon- 7/18/15. Adding a new state in a 50 state quest that will probably never be completed, I paced the 2:15:00 finish group high up in the Rockies.  I felt privileged to be running such an awesome event, and the salad during the post race festival was amazing!  Finish time 2:14:41

Revel Rockies Marathon- 7/19/15. Taking full advantage of my weekend in Colorado, this challenge was a first for me.  A Half on Saturday, then this Full on Sunday.  Back to back.  The elevation and a lack of proper hydration killed my BQ attempt, but with ten miles of intermittent killer calf cramps, still managed to finish.  Finish time 3:46:46

Carowinds Run & Ride Half Marathon- 9/13/15. Pacing again for Beast Pacing, a weekend riding roller coasters with my son was reason enough to run this race.  Although the course was mega short, I made sure to get as many runners to the finish line in under 1:50 as I could.  Finish time 1:49:18

Marine Corps Half Marathon- 9/19/15. Ran this Half for the first time, and with my older son.  Been wanting to fit it into my schedule for a few years, and glad we finally ran it.  Race day’s weather was really tough, with temps way to hot and humid for a half marathon, but we both managed to win age group medals, so it was a father/son double.  Finish time 1:48:08

Chicago Marathon- 10/11/15. So happy to return to such an amazing marathon in one of my favorite cities ever!  I absolutely love this race, and would do it yearly if I was lucky enough to get in and had the travel funds.  Not my best race of the year, but certainly a blast with millions of spectators cheering me on by name!  Finish time 3:49:38

Bull City Race Fest Half Marathon- 10/18/15. Amazing event in downtown Durham, my son and I paced a race for the first time together in the same group.  An epic experience that we both really enjoyed.  We paced the 8:30 per mile group and came in just under goal time in 8:29.  We rocked it!  Finish time 1:51:14

TCS New York City Marathon- 11/1/15. What can I say?  The NYC Marathon was the crowning achievement of 2015 and my last race of the year.  One of the Big 6, this race has it all.  Big city, big production, millions of spectators, and too many bridges!  Having my Dad and Brother there cheering me on was the highlight of my year.  Finishing in the top 15% was more than I could hope for.  It was also my fastest marathon finish of 2015.  Finish time 3:45:23

 

All in all, just an amazing year of running and racing.  Six Fulls, six Halves, and a 10k sprinkled in for good measure.  Happy New Year to you all, and hope that your running takes you places in heart and sole, that you never thought possible.  Here’s to 2016!  Make it EPIC!

Marine Corps Half Marathon- Race Recap

This past Saturday, 9/19/15, my oldest son and I ran an amazing race together.  A new Half Marathon to us, but a tried and true tradition for years about a two and a half hour drive from home.  This race has been on my radar for a few years now, but timing and obligations always seemed to get in the way.  Not this year!  Back at the beginning of the Summer my son called me and said “let’s sign up for a race”.  You know me, I love running races with my boys, so I searched and searched to find us a race.  Because I didn’t have a September marathon planned this year, this Half Marathon at Camp LeJeune was the perfect choice.

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This race would be my sons 5th Half, and my 29th!  The weather the week prior to the race was finally cooling off a bit.  For a few weeks I had been able to get in some training runs in more moderately warm conditions versus down right hot ones.  My son was taking this race very seriously.  He has recently gotten a lot fitter, and had really taken training for this race to a new level for him.  Based on the runs he had in the month leading up to the race, I knew if he had a good day that he would leave Dad in the dust right at the start.  Time would tell.

This race location is an interesting one for us.  Being about 150 miles away from home, it seemed too close to commit to an overnight in a hotel, but meant getting up mega early on race morning to drive there.  I chose to drive on race morning since they offered race day packet pick up.  It was way more difficult to do this than I had ever imagined.  We had to leave the house by 3am!!  Yes, 3:00am.  Ugh!  It wasn’t a big deal to my son, who threw on some headphones, and curled up in the passenger seat.  To me?  Not fun!  Because of added security measures at Camp LeJeune, they suggested we get there 90 minutes before the race.  We had to submit personal info prior to the race like drivers license info, make and model of the car I would be driving, etc..  Getting there early would mean I would have the needed time to get my parking pass, find parking on base, pick up our packets, and get prepared to race.  It all worked out just fine, it was just a very long morning.

Our race preparations went as planned.  I was a bit disappointed that the cooler morning temperatures of the prior week had decided to end abruptly that day.  When I had gotten up at 1:30am, the temperature was 70 degrees.  By the time the race started it was 72, and humid.  We hydrated the best we could before the race began, and I hoped for the best.

This race also includes a 5k, and 10k so there were plenty of runners everywhere.  A very nice large holding area/finish area, it never felt too crowded but I knew that based on previous runnings of this event that there was over 1,000 runners there ready to race.  We lined up at 6:45, and promptly at 7am, the race began.  I told my son to race smart, and to hydrate and be sure to take his gels.  Within the first 30 seconds he was well out in front of me.  I hoped he hadn’t gone out too fast, only to lose it on the second half.  United States Marines manned intersections and kept traffic under control.  Since this entire race course was taking place in their home it was only fitting.

The race course was quiet and mostly flat.  I was clocking mile paces in the 7:30 range at the beginning. This would change, and all too soon.  It was incredibly sticky outside, and by mile three began to feel more like I was running through a swamp and not running on the road.  It was tough.  The condition were not ripe for a brilliantly fast race for me, and considering I had run another Half Marathon six days prior, I wasn’t trying to set any records.  I just knew it wouldn’t happen, especially with the heat of the morning.  The race course was beautiful though.  Several signs along the way, families in their driveways cheering us on.  It felt cozy and warm.  The section of the race course along the water was very scenic and tranquil.

My race shirt usually gets soaked with sweat during a race, but this was extreme.  My shirt was soaked by mile five, and my shorts were already getting that way.  I had a guy pass me around mile five that was literally dripping from head to toe.  He was drenched!  I think he was almost leaving wet footprints as he ran by me.  It was humid!  I was enjoying myself though, and found myself hoping that I would never catch another glimpse of my son until the finish line.  I wanted him to have a great race.  He trained hard for it, and I wanted him to succeed.

My race felt dauntingly slow.  As my pace crept upward I made a goal to come in faster than 1:49:00, a mark I was using to pace myself the prior week at the Carowinds Half.  I felt this goal was achievable, even in the heat.  Beyond the midway point in the race the pack was very thin.  I raced in and around the same group of guys for quite some time.  We traded positions at every aid station.  Water was every two miles on the course up to mile 8, and then every mile until the finish.  I knew based on how much I was sweating that I had better take advantage of each one until the end.  I would skip the last one.

The later miles were tough.  I just wanted to finish.  The effort I expended during this race was far more than my previous race, and it was all because of the heat and humidity.  It really zonked my energy.  Nearing the end, I couldn’t wait to see my son.  I wanted to know how he did.  I never caught up to him, but found myself doing a double take at mile 13 when I ran up next to an ambulance and medics loading a runner onto a stretcher.  Luckily it wasn’t him, but felt badly for that guy.  Been there, done that.  Not fun.  Racing in these conditions can land you in the hospital if not properly prepared.

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The finish line finally in view, I managed to hold my pace under my goal.  I crossed the line in 1:48:08.  Receiving my medal from a U.S. marine in uniform was very nice!  My son was there to congratulate me and tell me all about his run.  We swapped war stories of the heat and how we managed to push through to the finish.  He beat me by about four minutes.  He did start out too fast, and really slowed down the last few miles.  He was pleased though with his race.

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We gathered some water and Gatorade, and tried to cool down.  Once we did, we walked right over to the car to change clothes.  It was nice to be able to do that so easily.  The car was right there!  I guess that was a benefit to getting there early that morning.  We made our way over to the large lawn that was filled with runners, family and friends.  They had quite the spread.  Tons of food, everything from funnel cakes to hotdogs, and everything inbetween.  Fruit, sweets, beer, the list goes on and on.  It was very nice.  My calves started cramping up the minute I sat down.  Even though I tried my best to stay hydrated, the heat, sun and humidity of the morning left me a bit dehydrated.

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We hung around for the award ceremony, you know, just in case one of us won something.  Plus it was just a really nice atmosphere, and much needed recuperation time before driving back home.  I’m glad we stuck around!  As they began announcing the Half Marathon awards they started with teams, then masters, then age groups.  Low and behold, my name was announced!  Second place!  Then, as they progressed to the younger age groups, my sons name was announced, too.  He had won second place in his age group!

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We were both thrilled!  The medals are beautiful, too!  We couldn’t have asked for a better way to cap off this event than with an extra medal each!  Father and son had succeeded the best we could that day given the conditions.  I’m so glad we finally ran this race, and I have to say, may become a tradition for us.  A cooler day would have been more optimal, but we had a great time together.

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My son finished in 65th place out of 975 runners!  Just amazing!  His time was 1:44:39

I finished 94th with a 1:48:08.

The Long and Winding Road

It just occurred to me.  My trip to Denver this past weekend could easily fill about five blog posts.  The trip out there alone could have been one post, but I chose to abbreviate it to just the hightlights and combine it with my first race recap.  It certainly was an epic first day!

From the time my plane took off in Raleigh until I had finished a Half Marathon in Aspen, the time span was a mere 17.5 hours. Crazy!  It was all worth it though.  Nearly four hours on the plane, four to five hours in the car, three hours of sleep and a race.

Ok, deep breath.  Moving on.  Like I said in my previous post, I had an expo to get to four hours away, so hanging out after the race for more than an hour was really unrealistic. Since I had come into town the night before along a different route, I wanted to take the shorter route back to the Denver area.  This meant driving from the race finish in Basalt, through Aspen and on through Independence Pass.

Once I started driving this route it became abundantly clear to me that I was actually glad that I hadn’t tried to drive this route the night before.  It was a winding road to say the least.  It was incredibly high up in the mountains, and barely one lane in spots.  It WAS beautiful though, just incredible.

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Little did I know that I would be driving along The Continental Divide.  I guess I really haven’t given much thought to what the Divide really is, so I’ve had to read up on it.  Yes, there is still snow up there.  I didn’t stop to take many pictures, but what a great place to do some sightseeing, hiking and even rock climbing.  I saw a ton of folks doing each of those things.

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The Continental Divide- the principle, and largely mountainous, hydrological divide of the Americas.  The Continental Divide extends from the Bering Straight to the Straight of Magellan, and separates the watersheds that drain into the Pacific Ocean from those river systems that drain into the Atlantic Ocean.

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It was an amazing drive!  I still can’t believe the elevation of over 12,000 ft.  Maybe that’s why my ears kept popping.  Eventually my route took me back down through the Rockies and on into the Denver area.  I desperately needed a shower, so finding my hotel was the first order of business.

I stayed in Westminster, CO, about a 25 minute drive from the Revel Rockies race expo in Golden, and about the same distance to where I needed to catch the race buses in the morning in Morrison.  After a quick shower and a few minutes to relax I got back in the car and proceeded to the expo.  I completely forgot to take one single picture at the expo, but it was easy to find, and laid out perfectly.  There weren’t a whole lot of vendors at all, so after grabbing my bib, bag and shirts, off I went back to the hotel for some much needed rest.

Although there were many options for group dinners with other ambassadors, run groups, etc., I was so overtired, I just needed some quiet time, and an early bedtime even more.  I grabbed some food from a local restaurant and ate it in my hotel room.  Starting to fade very early in the evening, I mapped out my drive for the morning, got my gear ready to go, and set a very, very early alarm.  Like, isn’t 1:50am a bit too early?  Well, with needing to be at the parking lot for the busses leaving for the marathon between 3:30-4:15am, I felt this would be best.  I think I was fast asleep by 9:30pm.  Wish it had been even earlier.

I’ll end this post with a photo of my team and race shirt.

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Race Day post coming soon…….

Aspen Valley Half Marathon – Race Recap

As I sit here on the couch, still in complete recovery mode from an epic weekend of running, my thoughts are now gathered and ready to recap the first of two races.

The Aspen Valley Half Marathon – Colorado

My plane ride to Denver was uneventful, and arrived right at 8pm local time.  Since I traveled from the east coast, it was 10pm, “my time”.  I took the shuttle out to the rental car pickup, and within a speedy 20 minutes, was off and driving west.  I had mapped out my journey west prior to getting there, but included none of the necessities like finding somewhere to buy a drink for the trip, and also stopping for a bite to eat before the epically dark trip into the mountains.  I knew it would take about four hours to drive from the airport to Aspen, without stops.  Once I found a place to stop off and grab some food and drink, I was on my way.

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Being completely unfamiliar with the area, I tried to stay focused on the road.  I took Interstate 70 west.  I’m sure the drive is tough enough during daylight because, let’s face it, you’re driving through the Rocky Mountains, but driving it in total darkness added more interest and intrigue.  In other words, stress!

I had to come up with plan “B” more than an hour into my trip, because in the darkness, I completely missed the first exit that I needed to take.  Once I noticed it, I decided I would just go up to the next exit, and come back around to make the correction.  Well, the next exit was too far away to double back around so I just decided to keep going and take the longer interstate route.  It was a long drive!  Making it worse and even more stressful were two incidents.  The first being a car fire.  Not mine.  As I was driving west of Vail, I started seeing smoke in the distance.  As I got closer I realized that a car on the side of the road was completely ablaze.  I mean, ON FIRE!  Luckily there were already a few cars stopped to help the passengers of that car, and I could see the fire trucks coming in the opposite direction.  I slowed down, and carefully passed, although for a moment I thought, watch it explode as I drive right next to it.

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Another 1/2 hour later there was road construction happening, where the interstate was closed in my direction for repairs.  That meant we were merged into one lane for eight miles.  Complete agony!  I was so tired, and this wasn’t helping.  Needless to say, the trip was long, and taxing on my body, after having flown for almost four hours to Colorado.  My ass was killing me from all of the sitting!  I finally made it to my hotel at 1am.  (3am, “my time”). Exhausted, I fumbled around getting my race stuff ready for morning, and hit the hay about 1:45am.

I woke up about three hours later to get ready for my Half.  I was thanking my lucky stars that I was only running a half marathon and not a full.  Plus, the fact that I was there to pace the 2:15 group, I knew that even being so tired, I could still manage that.  After meeting up with fellow pacer, Jill, from the Denver area, we made our way to the parking lot about five miles away to get ready, and wait for a shuttle to take us to the start.  Jill had never paced before, so I gave her some advice while swapping running stories.  Jill, if you ever read this, it was a pleasure meeting you!

We met up with other pacers for the Half, and I took a few photos before we boarded the shuttle.

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I have never been to Colorado, and since I arrived in the dark the previous night, I was just in awe of the natural beauty of the mountains.

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The starting line was just so picturesque.  I knew it was going to be a beautiful run from Snowmass to Basalt.  I got rid of my drop bag, and we all got lined up to start the race.  I met up with a bunch of runners who wanted to run with me.  Tricia was the most vocal.  She was a part-time resident of Colorado, part-time New Yorker.  She told me she would be running the New York City Marathon, so maybe we will bump into each other there later this year.

The run was beautiful.  My plan was to keep an even pace, so once we broke out of the crowd, I settled into a 10:14 per mile pace, allowing a tiny cushion just in case.  I had no issues with the high elevation, the air was so crisp and clean.  Chatting with runners all around, we made our way down the Rio Grande Trail toward Basalt.  Even pacing, perfect pacing and company, it was a very enjoyable run.

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Most of the course is downhill, but a few uphills on the final miles were just enough to test your legs.  I had no trouble, but many folks were having to walk the uphill portions.  I guess my hill work paid off!

Nearing the finish I started thinking about having to race again the following day.  I was happy I was getting in the shake out run I wanted, but worried that it was too much.  I didn’t have any leg issues, and no trouble breathing.  Pacing the 2:15 was really a great warm up.  I hope I felt that way later in the day.

Coming through the finish line, I grabbed a medal and water, and waited to welcome in folks from my pace group that had faded along the course.  We high-fived and chatted before heading over to a nice picnic area set up as the finisher village.  There was all sorts of food from custom made salads, to donuts, coffee, beer and more.  There was music and friendly runners everywhere.

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My finish time was 2:14:41.  19 seconds under the goal.  I thought I ran it perfectly.  My pace after mile 1 never wavered more than two seconds from my goal pace.  What a great, relaxing atmosphere to soak up an achievement.  I relaxed with some other pacers for about an hour before we hit the road back to Denver.  I had an expo to attend, so I needed to get going.  That is a story all itself, as I traversed through Independence Gap, and over the Continental Divide.

Wow!  What an amazing and tiring trip so far.  I wouldn’t have done it any other way!  The Aspen Valley race was very well done.  If you ever find yourself in Colorado in July, I would surely recommend this race.