This Crazy Running Journey I’m On

I guess when a past time turns into a habit, turns into an obsession, turns into a passion, it’s a really good thing.  My running journey has afforded me so many great things!  Better health, both physically and mentally, focus, intent, goals, and so much more.

It started so innocently back in 2010 when my main goal was to get out on the pavement to support my oldest son when he joined the cross country team at school.  I gave him advice, I motivated him.  I signed us up for races.  We had fun running both together and separately.  We love the competition, and being out there supporting one another.

I started running more and more and more.  I wanted to tackle more distance.  Once I had run a few Half Marathons, I think it motivated him to at least think about running a Half one day.  I started running marathons.  He started running Halves.  We love racing together.  He is in college now, and doesn’t live at home.  A few weeks ago I got the greatest text ever from him.  It simply said ” Dad, when is our next Half Marathon?”  Awe!  He was basically saying, find us some races, and sign us up.

So that is exactly what I did.  I found us a few to run this Fall, since there aren’t any races with any distance here during the Summer.  It’s just too hot to race 13.1 or 26.2.  So, we will be running the Marine Corps Half Marathon in September, and the Bull City Race Fest Half in October.  I couldn’t be more excited about it, and how his running originally influenced me to run, and how now my marathon running is keeping him interested in distance running.  He’ll run a marathon one day, I’m sure of it.

Running has given me such great satisfaction over the past few years.  I started this blog, really as a diary for myself.  A place to record my memories, my achievements, my day to day running stuff.  It has become so much more than that though.  It has led to some pretty amazing friendships both virtually and in real life.  I really enjoy reading about the running journeys of people from all over the globe, we really are a family.  A running family.

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My “diary” contains a lot of personal achievements, and when coupled with race medals, really tells a story of my journey.  A journey I love to share with you.  What started so small and really just for me, this blog has had far reaching impact on others in the community, and I love that about blogging.  I am nearing 10,000 visitors on my blog, and well over 500 followers, and I want to thank each of you for providing me inspiration to be my best.  To set goals, and to achieve them.  So many of your stories have been huge inspiration on my running journey, and I hope my musings do the same for you!

Run on……

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OBX Racing Challenge- What is that?

After my last post about running challenge events, I started to think.  The 10k, 5k back to back I raced last June was not the only time I’ve taken on a challenge.  I had an eppiphany!  Ok, spell check didn’t highlight that word I’ve probably never written, so maybe I spelled eppiphany correctly?  Anyway, here’s another challenge story leading up to my biggest challenge this Summer when I run a Half Marathon on Saturday, followed by a Full the next day.

What is OBX, you ask?  Maybe you’ve seen the oval stickers on the bumpers of numerous vehicles for years and always wondered what it meant.  Well, it refers to one of the most beautiful places here in my home state of North Carolina.  The Outer Banks!

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About a four hour drive from home, the Outer Banks of NC, are incredibly beautiful.  A vacation spot for thousands and thousands of people from all over the States and abroad.  It’s a place to slow down, enjoy the views, play in the sand and enjoy the ocean, sunrises and sunsets.  You only need to speed up in the OBX if you happen to be there to run one of the several awesome races they host over the course of each year.

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A few years ago I had the opportunity to run a race there!  The Outer Banks Marathon is a weekend full of events and takes place each year in November,  The weekend includes fun runs for both kids, and adults, the Buccaneer 5k, the Outer Banks 8k, a 5k and Half Marathon Challenge, the 8k and Half Challenge, the 8k and Full Marathon Challenge, Southern 6, the TowneBank Outer Banks Half Marathon, and the TowneBank Outer Banks Marathon.  Wow!  Tons of events, and a bunch of challenges to choose from.  Back when I ran these races the title sponsor was Gateway Bank.

In 2012, I chose to run the Blackbeard Challenge!  It entailed the 8k on Saturday morning, followed by the Full Marathon on Sunday morning. See?  How did I forget about this challenge when I wrote my last post?  At the time, I had never tried anything even close to this kind of challenge.  In fact, this Marathon was only the third marathon I had ever run.

Outer Banks Sporting Events has several great races throughout the year.  The Flying Pirate Half Marathon in April each year, Storm the Beach, and Saga Outerbanks Triathlon are other events they host.  This race company is known for great swag, medals and overall fun experiences.  The year that I ran this challenge, they even offered custom race shirts, and of course I had to get one since this was a big challenge to me, and I wanted to commemorate it with more than just “the race shirt”.  It’s from a company called WearYourNumber.com. Check it out!

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Isn’t it cool?  I got to customize it with my own photo (a beach photo because of where the race was located) and with verbiage/script of my choice.  It looks like a bib, but it’s actually printed on the shirt!  It was my actual race number, too!

We had the best weekend in the Outer Banks!  Family, food, fun and racing.  At the time I was suffering (and had been for months) with Plantar Fascitis.  It was excruciating, and added an extra challenge for me that weekend.  Looking back on it, I was pretty miserable for both races, and didn’t have great races at all.  But, I did it!  I ran and conquered both.

8k medal.  Completed in 38:21. 37th place overall!

8k medal. Completed in 38:21. 37th place overall!

There was a race shirt and medal for both races I ran, and an additional medal for completing the challenge.

Race shirt.  I absolutely love the logo!

Race shirt. I absolutely love the logo!

Next up, after much unsuccessful foam rolling was the marathon.  I started well, enjoying views from Kitty Hawk to Manteo, but failed miserably with cramping and of course my PF was killing me.  My worst marathon finish to date at a pace of 9:41 for an overall finish time of 4:13:58.  Yeah, I was happy to finish, but felt a bit deflated with my time.  I guess considering my physical struggles, finishing was probably all I should have hoped for.  Here is a look at the medal.

A beautiful medal, even if it is a little small compared to most races I've run.  Still love it!

A beautiful medal, even if it is a little small compared to most races I’ve run. Still love it!

To top off the weekend, I received this medal for completing the challenge.

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So there you have it.  I didn’t start blogging until six months after this race, so a recap full of detailed memories from my races isn’t included.  I really can’t go back in my mind and try to review it.  I do know though, that if you are looking for a great weekend at the beach in November, this is a great option.

On to the next challenge.  Back to back Half and Full.  This July!  Aspen Valley Half and Rockies Marathon.

No PR, No BQ, No Big Deal. Run Happy!

Could this old guy be slowing down?  Well, lately I’ve felt like my fastest running days are over.  Does it have to do with age, or does it have to do with guts and determination?

I turned my focus this past week on speed work.  Running distance in this heat (91 degrees right now), can be very daunting.  So, a nice change to my training has been shorter distances, and speed work.  I’m testing myself, to see if this aging guy still has what it takes to pull a PR at any distance.

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My immediate attention is on a 10k in a few weeks.  I am not gunning for a PR because it’s just not that important to me right now.  I haven’t PR’d the distance in a few years, but I don’t run 10k’s often at all.  But the distant focus is on a pair of races this Summer.  I’ll still go all out like I want a PR, that’s just my nature.

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I have decided that even though I am going to give it my best shot at the Rockies Marathon on July 19th and go for a PR, with high hopes for a BQ, that I will also run the day before.  A Half.

Too crazy not to try something I have never done.  Only once have I run back to back races.  Last Summer I ran a 10k and then a 5k 45 minutes later the same morning.  It was a 15k challenge which I gladly signed up for.  So, I’ve done that sort of race double, but nothing close to what I will attempt in July.

So, I am signed up for the Aspen Valley Half Marathon on July 18th.  I will be a pacer, and hopefully get in a nice much slower than normal pace for me type of warm up.  The warm up is for the next day, running the Full Marathon.  Going for my BQ.  Will I achieve that BQ?  Who knows, but I don’t think I really want to skip the challenge of back to back distance events like this opportunity presents.

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There will be so many opportunities to get my BQ, that I think I am loosening the reigns on the BQ wagon this Summer.  I would rather have a fun challenge of back to back races in two beautiful locations, than pinning all my hopes on one BQ race.  Sure, I am still going to give it my all, but if it doesn’t happen at least I won’t regret passing up on the second race to solely focus on the BQ.  Boston is not everything.  Sure, would I love to go and run Boston one day?  Absolutely!  But at least for now, it’s not the end all be all goal.

I had to do some soul searching of late, and figured out that I run because it makes me happy, makes me feel good.  I run for the health benefits, and for the mind and soul cleansing it provides me.  I run for the beauty around me.  I think if I run solely with a BQ in mind, that I lose many of the reasons why I run in the first place.  I don’t need all the pressure, running is supposed to relieve that.  If I happen to have the race of my life and qualify, then of course I will be thrilled.  If it doesn’t, I don’t want to be heart broken and full of regret.  If I run a 3:24:59 I will be ecstatic, but if I run a 3:50:00, I want to be happy for the experience of it all.

So that’s it!  I’m running a Half, then a a Full the next day.  I will give it my all, I will enjoy and revel in both.  It’s a pretty big challenge, but one I am happy about.  Have you ever tried a crazy running challenge?  Back to back races?  Back to back to back races?  I’d love to hear about your experiences.  Please share!

Boston!

It won’t be long now.  Awesome runners from all over the world will be descending on the city of Boston, Massachusetts.  The cream of the crop.  I’m assuming that all of these runners are suffering from taper madness as the big day approaches.  Man, I wish I was joining them!

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Getting into Boston is no small feat.  The standards for qualifying are strict, and it really takes a lot of effort to pull off a qualifying time.  I am currently shooting for a 3:25:00 marathon just to call myself a qualifier.  My age group for the 2016 qualifying period is 45-49.  Yes, I will be 46 years old when Boston 2016 takes place.

My attempt to get into this years Boston Marathon was foiled when at 15 miles into the Big Cottonwood Marathon, I ran out of gas.  I ran out of gas in a big way.  I finished that marathon in 3:41:59, sixteen minutes too slow qualify.  My personal record in a marathon is a 3:32:24 at the Raleigh City of Oaks Marathon.  That race was only seven minutes off the pace I need to get in.

I am getting closer.  Closer to Boston.  I must get to the starting line though, before I can get to the storied finish line.

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Here is my plan, and my goal race for this year.

My 2015 has started out pretty well.  I’ve been getting in some really quality runs.  I haven’t burned myself out.  So far this year I’ve run two marathons and one half.  These races were all familiar to me, and races that I could work on mental fitness, and tweak my breathing and pace.  Progress!  I feel good about how my races have gone this far.  I have another Half coming up, and then a hilly marathon in May.  Both of these races will again be tests of fortitude, but will not be attempts to qualify for Boston.

My BQ goal race is in Denver this July.  So, after my marathon the first weekend in May, my training will turn to downhill work, and pacing.  I will be pushing myself more than I have been so far this year.  Getting into Boston is important to me, but not everything.  I need to push myself harder during training than usual though if I plan to have a successful attempt.  No pain, no gain.  Luckily I can say that my running has gotten me close to Boston, but in order to get there, I need to find a way to ramp up my pace.  I need to break another barrier in my running, and that is just not easy.

Boston has only been a dream of mine for about two years now.  I just wasn’t sure that I could run well enough to be among the elite athletes that run that race early on in my marathon career.  Now that I have run 18 marathons, I am convinced that I have what it takes to get there.  Lofty dreams require work and dedication.  I have to find the inner spirit to push through and break that 3:25:00 barrier.  I believe, I believe!

Now comes the harder work to get there!  Boston!  One day you will be mine, and I’m gunning for April 18, 2016.

Are you gunning for, or have been to The Boston Marathon?  Any tips you can provide to push through that final wall to qualify?

So, Say Geronimo! A tale of my pre-race accident

March 22, 2015-

My race morning started like many others.  Up early to an alarm clock piercing in my head, verbally cursing words that no one should hear at that hour of the day.  Ok, ok, I’m up.

What was ahead for the morning was the usual.  My race gear had been laid out the night before, so all that was left before heading out the door was some relaxation, coffee and a shower.  My son and I jumped in the car at O Dark Thirty.  4:30 to be exact.  Meeting a friend by 5:45 who had picked up our packets at the expo, because alas, I had to work both days of the expo.

We met Todd right on schedule.  Then a ten minute drive over to downtown Fayetteville to find parking, which was an absolute breeze.  After getting a drop bag ready, and pinning our bibs on our shirts, we walked over to the park where the starting line is.  All was going too smoothly….

We walked into the park, and found the bag drop area.  Met a few friends there and snapped a few photos.  All was relaxed, stretching taking place to ease into race readiness.

For those of you who don’t have any background on this race, it is a point to point military themed marathon, half and 5k.  A truly inspiring race that I have now been proud to be a part of for the second straight year.  Starting at Festival Park in downtown Fayetteville, NC, runners wind through town, onto the All American Freeway and eventually into Ft. Bragg.  An army installation that is home to the US Army Airbourne forces, and Special Forces, as well as US Army Forces Command and the Reserve Command.  It is an inspiring run in every way.  Thank you to our military.

At this point, before heading to the start line, my son disappeared while I was stretching.  By the time I realized that he was gone, I started scanning the bathroom lines.  The lines were mega long, like most races, and I didn’t see him.  Then he appeared from behind me, stating he had gone to pee back behind the main stage in the park  where we were standing.  Ok, I said.  I will forego the long lines and do the same thing.  What happened next was a tad startling and almost ended my race before it began.

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Maybe I was channeling my inner paratrooper, or muttering the words from a current song by Sheppard. It kinda goes like this…..  Say Geronimo, say Geronimo, say Geronimo…. Bombs Away, Bombs Away….. Ok, I love that song, it’s very catchy.  But, yep, here is what happened….

I was not clumsy, just maybe careless.  I started to jog to the the back of the pavilion stage.  There were like 8-10 concrete stairs leading back behind the stage to the parking lot and then eventually to the woods on the perimeter of the park. It was pretty dark still.  It wasn’t a well lit area.  Any guesses as to what happened next?

At the bottom of the steps there was a curb, which I didn’t see.  Why is there a *bleeping* curb at the bottom of a set of stairs?  I guess the curb was there because it was protecting about a two foot drop down to the parking lot.  OMG….  Here comes the explanation to the earlier paratrooper metaphor.  Before I knew what was happening, my big toe on my right foot slammed into aforementioned concrete curb, and I launched into the air in relative darkness.  Without much time to think, flying through the air, I thought, this was not going to end well.  It didn’t.

Before I knew it, my left hand broke my fall partially (well it was the first body part to make contact with the parking lot).  I then sort of tried the tuck and roll to the best of my ability.  Next to make impact was my right elbow, and then my right knee and outer right leg.  I popped back up as quickly as possible, hoping that my flight and landing were kinda graceful.  There was one guy back there that saw it all happen, but remained quiet and probably happy that I got up on my own.  Like Santa Claus, he spoke not a word and went straight to his work.  Yes, he was back there to urinate, too.  Hurting all over from my fall, knowing that I was probably bleeding, I quickly peed and went back to find my son.

Time to see the damage, as I emerged back into the light of the stage.

Road rash on my hand, lots of skin peeled off, but very little blood.  Oops, I could feel blood running down my leg from my knee..  I check out my elbow next, as I was trying to avoid looking at my leg.  Again, plenty of scrapes, redness, some blood, but not too bad.  My knee and leg…  Another story.  Lots of pain.  I knew I had hit it pretty hard.  There was a good portion of the skin on the bottom part of my knee that was gone in the battle.  The leg hair at the site of impact was gone, the only thing left was road rash, and pounding pain.

Can you say Geronimo?  No time to find a medical tent, and probably still in shock, we walked over to the race start.  Ok, good news, I could still walk, and would race no matter what.  I wiped away blood with a paper towel I had stuffed in my race belt to use to blow my nose.  I picked off dangling skin that I knew would annoy me during the race, and I got ready to race.  There was no way I was going to allow this accident to deter me from the 26.2 mile task at hand.  Ten minutes to race time this song starts playing….  So Say Geronimo, say Geronimo…  No lie!  It was me!  They dedicated it to my pre-race launch.  Ok, no they didn’t, but that’s exactly what I thought.

My finger nails tingling, with pavement gauges in them, blood running down my leg, it was time to lose the focus on the blood and pain, and run.

And I did!

And I finished!

And I hurt like hell today!

True story, I couldn’t make this shit up.  I may not be a paratrooper, but I am a trooper.

Reflecting on an amazing running year – 2014

As the final days of 2014 are winding down, and the year comes to a close it leads me on a reflection trip.  What all did I accomplish this glorious year, and where will it lead me in 2015?

The year started with a fun trip to Charleston, SC with my friend Paula.  My first marathon of the year completed in the cold and windy weather off the Atlantic Ocean.  3:47:58 final time.

A few weeks later a trip to see Mom, and run the Hilton Head Marathon.  My finish time of 3:54:00 was disappointing to me that day.  Not sure why, just not a great race for me.  I do believe I will return in 2015 for revenge.

In March, I again took a trek to the beach.  This time Wrightsville Beach, in North Carolina.  First time running there, and again, bored with the flat course, I put up a time of 3:51:08.  Not my best, and not a fun day.

April, my birthday marathon.  Rock ‘n’ Roll Raleigh, here at home.  Majorly difficult course, hills and lack of hydration on the course during a warm day led me to a 3:55:40 finish, my slowest marathon of the year.  It was my birthday though, so it was incredible.  I also ran the Tar Heel 10 Miler two weeks later.  That was a great race, with a stadium finish.  Finish time of 1:18:01.

May took me to the inaugural All American Marathon about an hour from home.  An inspiring, amazing race which I will return to run again in 2015.  Finish time of 3:52:25 for my fifth marathon of the year.  No complaints, plus I got to meet Meb at the finish.  What a great day!

In June, I ran a double.  The 15 Quay Challenge.  First a 10k race, followed by a 5k race a half hour later.  I ran the 10k at 7:47 pace, followed by the 5k at 7:38 pace.  Quite satisfying, and run with my son.  That was it for racing until September.

The Summer was filled with training for Fall.  Heat filled training, lots of miles.  It was a great Summer.

A week long stretch in September included two amazing trips.  First to Salt Lake City, Utah for the Big Cottonwood Marathon.  Finish time of 3:41:59, my second fastest in 2014.  A week later I got in the car and drove to Tennessee for the inaugural Great a Smoky Mountains Half Marathon.  A beautiful, awesome event, with a lackluster finish of 1:51:48.  One of my worst performances in a half, but very enjoyable getaway.

October was packed with racing!  I mean packed!  Chock full.  A Half in 10/5 in which I paced the 2 hour group to strong finishes.  1:58:45 finish time.  Then on to Chicago a week later, and one of the best weekends of the year, and probably one of the most fun weekends of my life!  It was incredible.  It was also my best marathon of the year, finishing in 3:41:04.  I want to go back every year from here on out!  Let’s hope the lottery works for me again in 2015.  Six days later was marathon #8 for the year in Greensboro, NC.  Fantastically difficult just six days after Chicago.  Hilly, tough course and a finish time of 3:53:42.  The following week another Half for Halloween.  1:47:01 and spooky good fun.

Then on to November and my final race of the year.  The City of Oaks Half with my kids.  A 1:43:58 crossing the line with a big smile on my face, and turning to watch my two sons finish.  Amazing day!

Amazing racing year!  I can only hope that 2015 brings me the same happiness and success on the road.  The only thing that could make it better would be to BQ.  All in good time though.

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Wishing all of you a Happy New Running Year!  Give it your all!

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Run Fast, Run Beautiful

Only four days remain until current pricing for the Revel Rockies Marathon & Half on July 19, 2015 goes up $10.  Currently you can register for the Full for $99.99, and the Half for $79.99, but only until the end of the year.

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Since I will be there going for a BQ, and also crossing off another state on my 50 state quest, I figured why not create a team so that others that join can save some money, as well.  So, in addition to beating the price increase, you can save $10 by joining my team, “Running Down a Dream”.

Click on the link to be taken directly to my team page.  https://www.runrevel.com/rdv/register?team=1464952

We don’t have to run together, just have fun, and save money.  If enough runners join my team, we also get a free personalized team shirt, and free team photos at the finish.

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Check out @RunRevel on Twitter, and visit their website for additional details.  Hope to see you in the Rockies!